Mural master: Alina Gallo works on one of her murals using egg tempera paint at Jamjar in Dubai XPRESS/ Francois Nel Image Credit: XPRESS/ Francois Nel

Dubai: American mural artist Alina Gallo is introducing Egg Tempera, a medieval painting technique that uses egg yolk, to the UAE art scene.

Popular in pre-Renaissance times, Egg Tempera paintings gradually declined when oil paintings became popular. But contemporary artists like Alina are reviving the technique and using it as a medium to express larger global scenarios.

She is currently working on a series of miniature panels and three mural paintings using the Egg Tempera technique at the Jamjar studio in Dubai.

As XPRESS visits the art studio, the first thing that strikes us are three 2.5-metre diameter murals. They depict a bomb blast, with splinters strewn everywhere. It is easy to see the luminescence and glow in Alina’s work, which she says is due to the use of egg yolk. She has used a dozen eggs to prepare the paint for the murals.

So what is Egg Tempera painting all about?

“It is a form of art using paints made of pigment-coloured powder mixed with egg yolk and a pinch of water. Unlike other forms of paintings where artists work with ready paints, here artists have to prepare their very own paint,” explains the 30-year-old artist, who was raised in Italy.

With the mural set behind her, Alina sits down to show us a step-by-step preparation of the paint. She sets up her palette – different pigment coloured powder, some small steel bowls, a tiny teaspoon and a small knife. “That’s all it takes,” she says. “The paint cannot be stored and hence we make just enough for a particular painting session.”

She cracks the egg and lets the white drain away. Deftly, she transfers the yolk to her palm. Taking the knife, she gently pierces the yolk sac and lets the yellow liquid pour into the steel bowl. “This is the purest and smoothest part of the egg which we will use to prepare the paint.”

Adding a pinch of water, she stirs the mixture.

“Owing to the egg’s oily and watery properties, the newly created paint leaves a permanent mark on the surface it is painted on. The egg yolk essentially acts as a binding element holding the coloured powders together,” she says.

“Ideally wooden panels, walls and special rigid papers work as best surfaces for Egg Tempera. A hard surface base is needed because when the egg yolk dries up, the residue cracks; and if the painting is on a soft base it will not hold the paint and it will crack.

“However, a hard surface will hold the paint well, even adding a glow from the egg yolk.”

Alina chooses global events and conflicts for her paintings and according to her, the Egg Tempera technique works best for her.

“When you depict a changing global situation, it requires a platform that is ready for change as well. Therefore a wall mural works just best here; they cannot be washed away, but can be painted upon several times.”

Alina will soon be leaving for the US, where her works will be part of the Portland Museum of Art Biennial Exhibition “Piecework” in October.