Fumage is a surrealist art technique popularized by Wolfgang Paalen in which impressions are made by the smoke of a candle or kerosene lamp on a piece of paper or canvas. Paalen´s first Fumage Dictated by a Candle was presented 1936 in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London. In the same year Paalen painted his first oil based on the fumage, “Pays interdit” (“Forbidden Land”).

The traces of fire and smoke thus entered into the circle of comparable techniques developed by colleagues such as Max Ernst and André Masson, where each random structure ignites the imagination of the artist and the viewer. In surrealism, it is more the rule that the soot of fumage in combination with oil painting occurs, their bright colors in addition to their own, sometimes intense, grayscale.

In this sense, Salvador Dalí Fumage has used, but she called “sfumato”. In a decidedly non-figurative imagery, around 1960 Fumage is again encountered in the works of artists such as Yves Klein, Burhan Dogancay, Jiří Georg Dokoupil and Otto Piene.

The process consisted of using traces of soot left by candle smoke or a kerosene lamp as a canvas for a visual composition. Paalen thus left a chance directed to lead the support of his work, parallel to the surrealists who used rather a method of composition automatism, based on unconscious improvisation. The smoking technique was used by several artists such as Roberto Matta, Alberto Burri, Burhan Doğançay, Yves Klein and Otto Piene. Smoking also consisted of walking the flame of a candle on a surface covered with fresh paint.

Several other Surrealists as Roberto Matta, but also Salvador Dalí later utilized the technique, Dali calling the technique “sfumato”. The technique has been utilized by artists including Bimal Banerjee, Adam Blakemore, Alberto Burri, Burhan Doğançay, Jiri Georg Dokoupil, Hugh Parker Guiler, Yves Klein, Antonio Muñiz, and Otto Piene.

In popular media
Guiler’s usage of the fumage technique is depicted briefly in the 1987 film Henry and June and his fumage pictures were often used as the covers for his wife Anaïs Nin’s books.

Scholar Mary Flanagan compared the technique to the reading of tea leaves and to the Rorschach test. José Antonio Pérez Esteban’s 2013 doctoral thesis analyzes fumage art, especially “soot paintings” by Jiri Georg Dokoupil.

Source from Wikipedia