Robert DiMatteo

The idea to interpret the Periodic Table through painting and drawing had been germinating for a long time. I first thought about the Periodic Table as subject matter when I read Primo Levi’s book “The Periodic Table” in which he writes metaphorically about events in his life as a chemist and the roles certain elements played at various stages.

It got me thinking about the elements and how I might interpret them relative to my concerns as a painter. I also realized that this could be a fitting match for my concerns about the environment - the fact that all of these elements are finite resources - and also bring added purpose to the work.


The point of this project is to bring a keen realization and connection to the “Elements” which make up the physical world.

All of the elements share a remarkable origin in that they are all the consequences of the birth and death of stars. Everything on Earth is made up of these elements, including us, and it is truly astounding to realize that we are, in fact, “ the stuff of stars”. Intrinsic to this, is the importance and significance of the elements to our lives and that it is incumbent upon us to consider these resources carefully and utilize them responsibly.


My work has always been inspired, to one degree or another, by my interest and attention to the Sciences. First, through biology and its fundamental relation to the worlds of the microcosm and the macrocosm. This lead to an examination of the architectonic structures of nature that underlay the basis for the engineering feats of man made forms and buildings.

This new body of work gets to the essence of life and ecosystems by focusing on the natural “elements” themselves which make everything in the natural and synthetic worlds possible.


Congruent with this are my own principle interests with surface and materiality. Each work is an experiment with materials and texture – mixing a variety of gels and other additives to the paints in order to achieve the desired effect. This is the driving force for me with relation to this project. Each element presents a new set of characteristics that need to be studied and assessed. This pushes me to experiment with textures and material effects that speak directly to the physical properties of each element, as well as, direct the color and compositional aspects of the work.


I have a three part approach to each element, the first, being a square format acrylic painting that addresses the physical qualities of the element – the basic design for each is based on the geometry of the elements crystal form and is then arranged in a pattern that loosely follows the formation of aperiodic tiling, the second, a drawing, in graphite and acrylic, that is a variation on the painting, and the third being a large gouache on paper that deals with the atomic energy of the element and is therefore made up of faceted transparent planes moving in all directions. Color for each element is derived from a combination of physical properties as well as the atomic spectral color inherent in each. From there, an intuitive approach becomes the dominant factor as each work progresses to its finished state.

For me, every works should move forward in some way – never repeating motifs or notions about plasticity in order to attain consistency. Rather, painting is first and foremost about attention and discovery – attention for the sake of understanding and discovery for the sake of expression.


This project has proven to be effective in both measures and it has been instrumental in my development as an artist and painter.It has been very challenging but also tremendously rewarding. The variety of elements and their properties allow for a variety of ideas and techniques to be employed throughout the process of interpreting them and this is what truly sparks my interest as a painter.


As this project progresses I plan on developing an educational component in the form of a lecture and workshop in which children (and adults) can research and create their own version of an element. At this point, my goal is to complete the number of elements that existed when Mendeleyev created the Periodic Table which was approximately 60.  My plan is to divide the project up into four parts, each part comprised of 15 elements; each element represented by a painting, drawing, and gouache, which would constitute 45 works in all.


Please visit the support page if you would like to be a part of helping this project along.


Thank you