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The message of using oil to create art

Jesus filled with oil, exhibit at Sweet Crude Eternity (Pic: Kashya Hildebrand)
Jesus Christ is one of a number of religious figures depicted
Russian artist Andrei Molodkin has explained how his latest exhibition uses crude oil to raise questions about cultural dominance and global communication.

Molodkin's latest exhibition, entitled Sweet Crude Eternity, is currently on display at the Kashya Hildebrand gallery in New York.

Many of the exhibits are created using plastic to create hollow moulds which are then filled with crude oil. They include sculptures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, internal human organs, and words such as "Democracy" all containing oil

Although he uses oil from many places in his work, much of that used in his Sweet Crude Eternity exhibition comes from Iraq and Iran - which he termed "Islamic" oil.

"Oil is like a global language of our world," Molodkin told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"A country can communicate with another just through energy or a resource."

'Life after death'

The artist, who splits his time between Paris and Moscow, said he was inspired to create works with oil when he worked on a train which transported missiles through Siberia.

As it was not possible to find coal, the train was instead run on oil - which made the soldiers working on it very dirty.

Democracy filled with oil, exhibit in Sweet Crude Eternity (Pic: Kashya Hildebrand)
By doing this, I can sell the oil at a cost 10,000 times more expensive - and I show how oil is transformed
Andrei Molodkin
"When we came out from the train to ask villagers for food or water, they saw how dirty we were and they gave us so much food," Molodkin explained.

"It was like exchanging oil for the food."

Molodkin's current exhibition expresses certain political viewpoints, detailing the US White House filled with oil, and soldiers with their hands pressed together in prayer.

But he also insisted that there was a more positive message he wanted to give through his art.

For example, he said one exhibit - a Christ figure with oil bleeding out of his wounds - "proves life after death in the eyes of the spectator."

This is because the oil that seeps out of the wounds is transformed to diesel, which can then be used as fuel.

"Oil is an organic material - every organic thing on our planet will be oil in future," Molodkin added.

"It's like life after death."

Russia fields

He also explained that was a financial aspect to creating art this way.

"I take Iraqi crude oil - thought of as a dangerous Islamic oil - and I fill it in the form of Jesus," he said.

"By doing this, I can sell the oil at a cost 10,000 times more expensive. And I show how oil is transformed in it."

Meanwhile, Molodkin detailed his latest project - a recently completed trip to Russia's oilfields.

He spent two weeks taking photos of the geology of the areas where the oil is extracted.

"I saw how they dig oil, how they press oil, and in the cold it's so difficult to do it, and such an expensive process," he said.

"It's not like Iran or Iraq - where they dig oil and it comes up very easily."

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