This project was commissioned for two projects in 2021: The National, the survey of Australian contemporary art, at MCA Sydney March - September 2021 and Castlemaine State Festival in March 2021.

Oenograf is a sculptural drawing instrument making live drawings powered by fermenting wine.

The instrument uses bubbling CO2 , robotic and analog motors and computer speed controls to create the drawings

OENOGRAF at MCA Sydney, for The National , a survey of contemporary Australian art

March – August 2021

Oenograf with the artist at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in March 2021 (photo by Anna Kucera MCA)

Oenograf is a sculptural drawing instrument making live drawings powered by fermenting wine. As yeast eats sugar in fresh grape juice, the bubbling Carbon Dioxide released moves a carbon-fibre drawing arm, marking paper which is slowly rotating on a trolley moving approx. 1mm per hour along a table to make week-long drawings. The activity in the grape juice is like a tiny weather system, unpredictable and interesting, leading drawings into unpredictable twists and turns. 

 Oenograf is in collaboration with the French wine maker Gilles Lapalus of Maison Lapalus in Harcourt, Victoria Australia, who suggested I visit his wine-lab, to see if I would be inspired by the bubbling fermentation. Gilles supplies freshly fermenting wine for the project, which is then bottled and labeled. 

The carbon footprint of the wine industry is very complex to assess. While fermentation releases some CO2 – which the drawings utilise – much of the carbon in the grape vines is re-composted into the vineyards, thereby keeping it locked up. But then we must look at the machinery, transportation, stainless steel equipment and so on to estimate the carbon footprint. Which I will leave to the scientists.  

Yeast belongs to the family of Fungi. Many great books have been written on Fungi, and it is revealed that they are neither animal nor vegetable, and one of the most prolific, durable and mysterious lifeforms on the planet. 

Oenograf at Castlemaine State Festival 2021 Cameron Robbins and Gilles Lapalus , photo by julie Millowick
Castlemaine State Festival , photo by Julie Millowick