Paula Ortega

  • Footprint One, Studio-made casein bioplastic and electroformed copper. 2015
  • Footprint One, Studio-made casein bioplastic and electroformed copper. 2015
  • Footprint Two, Studio-made casein bioplastic and electroformed copper. 2015

Paula Ortega is an Anglo-Argentinean artist concerned with what constitutes the objects we use and admire, their origin and the trace they eventually leave, whilst challenging our perception of their value. A trained opera singer, she also received a BA in audio-visual communication before training in jewellery making in London.

Paula Ortega’s work asks both philosophical and environmental questions. Relentlessly curious, she has developed her own bioplastic using casein, a protein present in milk. Her Footprints series explores the ideas behind the lifespan of a work of art.

The pieces are a mesh of a fantastical fossil and a microscopic organism; sparkling metal and gleaming white casein. The ephemerality of these works mean that eventually the plastic will biodegrade, leaving behind a metal carcass to be enjoyed, or to be melted and reused elsewhere.

Ortega also raises the issue of the finite amount of oil, and therefore plastics, and points to casein as a metaphorical alternative for a solution. Her work is an urgent and beautiful reminder that time is running out to tackle the continually ignored causes of climate change.

How connected are these themes with humans’ obsession of leaving a mark, a footprint that will transcend us?

The Footprints series is the result of two years of research that it has taken Paula Ortega to develop her own casein-based bioplastic. Casein is a protein present in milk and its use dates back millennia. The Egyptians used it as a fixative for their pigments in wall paintings, but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that casein was first used to make plastic – hardened with formaldehyde and produced in a variety of colours. However, with the advent of WWII came high demand for basic supplies like milk, and the new oil-based plastics were quicker to manufacture and so casein’s production in large scale ground to a halt.

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    • United Kingdom,

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