Chems project is about my experiments in a darkroom and diving into the unknown. It encompasses my true passion for photography, painting, and craftsmanship. It is the result of the exploration of film photography and alternative processes. It is the result of trials and errors, and mistakes that often can lead to something honest and beautiful.
Although the possibilities of painting with different kinds of chemicals and resistants are endless, I tried to create as much as a cohesive body of work, yet leaving enough room for a variety. Although the images are monochromatic, I tried to cover the full spectrum of feelings and emotions with it. You may find some dark, mysterious, and terrifying, while others might be found as quirky, touching, or romantic, all that life is about.
It's beautiful to explore the work you created, and then give it a name, a meaning, or a life, like to a newborn. This work is by all means an abstract and may have a different meaning to whomever observes it. It’s abstract until you name it, and then it becomes something it’s not easy to unsee. The names I gave to my work are solely my point of view at the moment of creation, but they do not provide the answer to what the painting is all about. It’s up to the observer to explore and give it a meaning, so please proceed with attention, there's nothing obvious here.
The black dog runs at night

In May 2020, I bought Rolleiflex, my first film medium format camera and I have set up a small photographic darkroom in our house in Montara, California. While developing photos on the very first day, I made some markings with the chemicals, and a few seconds later they started to appear on paper. It was a mind-blowing moment when I figured out that I can paint and draw using the same chemicals that I used for developing photos on the light-sensitive paper. This discovery immediately attracted and occupied me so much, that I completely shifted my time from developing films to making these magical paintings, which I learned later are called chemigrams.
Chemigrams were invented in the 1950s by Belgian artist Pierre Cordier, who discovered he can make drawings, by writing a letter to his girlfriend using nail polish on photographic paper. The similar way I discovered them, not even knowing it's an existing art form.
As I started making chemigrams more frequently in my small home studio, I needed a larger space where I can spread all the equipment necessary for the process. I needed several large trays for a developer, stopper, and fixer, as well as a tray of clean water to wash out the paper off chemicals. I also needed a space detached from the living area because of a potentially toxic chemical vapor that spreads throughout the air in the house. I had a large empty garage that we used for anything but to park the car. This was a perfect space, cool, dark, and far from the living environment. Finally, the empty garage, full of cardboard packaging boxes got its purpose.
Montara is a small coastal town in the woods, rich in tall, massive cypress and eucalyptus trees. We have 37 trees in our backyard and our neighbor David, whose house is next to ours had cut dozens of his cypress trees and had tons of lumber sitting in his greenhouse. He gave one piece to my wife Maja who used it to make a large beautiful 11 feet desk for my new studio. I had everything I needed to start with the work, more or less. Over the next couple of weeks, we put it in a pink plush sofa, a few chairs, cabinets for papers, tools, and supplies. My new studio became the favorite place for hanging out not only for me but for the whole family. We spent days inside or in front of the garage, soaking the beautiful California sun. It is such an inspirational place.
Although the combination of California sun and coastal mist was so magical, I couldn’t help but stay awake the whole night, while everyone else in the house and our small town was sleeping. There are no street or window lights to be seen anywhere else except in front of my garage, which is luckily so secluded that no one can see me from any point. No one except my neighbors across the backyard who wake up at 4am and must be wondering what the heck am I doing at 4am in the garage every night since the garage doors were open and lit by the red dimmed darkroom light. I would wear a mask and a black working suit, and there was always running water from the garden hose that I used for washing out the prints. I can only imagine it could look like a scene from a movie where someone is chopping bodies and the water is used to clean up the blood.
I started with film photography, darkroom, and chemigrams during the pandemic and social distancing. There were no workshops or any kind of gatherings. It was hard, or impossible to have someone to help you on the site, so I had to learn everything from books and online articles and videos. It’s hard to learn something you never saw in person. I never saw a darkroom, I never saw a well-developed photo, I never saw a chemigram. I didn’t know if what I was doing was any good at all. I relied only on my personal, subjective judgment. Until this day, of writing this, I have never seen anything else like it.  I can’t compare it to anything. I got no feedback from anyone except my family and a few closest friends, who also may be subjective and not fully competent. But I have something else that keeps me going - I love it. I love the idea of chemigrams. I love the magical moment when, as I’m drawing blindly under the red light, it appears a moment later when the paper is soaked into the chemicals. I love the process. Preparing the chemicals, resistants, and tools is like preparing the ingredients for making dinner. Experimenting with different resistants is super interesting as the coconut oil, olive oil, toothpaste, egg, or whatever I have in the house, mixed with chemicals provides different results. Tools I use, from brushes, squeegee, rollers, even hands all provide very different strokes. The process continues even after the image has appeared because I have to wash it out thoroughly for an hour under running water, dry it for a day and then flatten it over and over in the press machine. If I made 2 or 3 paintings that day, it would take several more days to complete the process. It is a kind of handcraft and art merged into one form.