abstract paintings made from digesting flies by john knuth abstract paintings made from digesting flies by john knuth
jul 21, 2013

abstract paintings made from digesting flies by john knuth

abstract paintings made from digesting flies by john knuth
images courtesy of john knuth



in collaboration with MOCAtv, the recently established global video channel of MOCA, los angeles artist john knuth has chosen an unlikely partnership with a common insect. using over 250,000 house flies, knuth has completed ‘made in los angeles’, a collection of abstract paintings which calls on the digestive process of the fly to mark his canvas with pigmented organic waste. in a realization of the diptera life-cycle, he exemplifies the approach of composition from decomposition.




john knuth: fly paintings – the artist’s studio – MOCAtv
video courtesy of MOCAtv



his creative process is comprehensive and lengthy starting with the flies’ arrival as thousands of maggots. as they mature, knuth determines their diet — a solution of watercolor paint and sugar. the biological machinery behind fly digestion is the process of constant regurgitation, meaning they consume and expel the mixture millions of times over the course of six weeks, leading to the repeated deposit of tiny waste prints on the canvas. the paintings that result chronicle this process, and the persistent overlap of the substance creates a dense layer of chroma, extending across the surface of the canvas. the abstractions recall impressionistic imagery present in the pointillism of georges seurat.




4 paintings from the series ‘made in los angeles’


knuth’s colour influences were based on the los angeles sky — backgrounds of orange and yellow and markings of blue, smoggy grey and black. knuth’s artistry draws him to the tension between the controlled environment of his studio and the unpredictable mark-making of his subjects.



paintings exhibited at the international art objects galleries in los angeles


‘I started working with the flies because I was curious about how flies spread disease and how they digest,‘ knuth says, ‘the more I worked with them the more I got interested in the process of condensing them to make something beautiful and beyond their nature.’ 


‘western’ – watercolor/flyspeck on canvas



‘the 101’ – watercolor/flyspeck on canvas



a series of close-up images of the flyspeck on canvas



watching the flies’ on canvas



  • Really like this

    Journeyman says:
  • This looks great but won’t last that long. Insect detritus is very acidic and will eventually eat out the layers of the artwork. Art conservators will have a headache trying to figure out how to conserve this piece of art.

    Jay says:
  • I think it is just disgusting to breed these flies to make so called art. I am itching all over from watching this…..Sorry…just my opinion.

    Rita says:

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