JENNIFER López Ayala likes to go to work on an egg. In fact she uses up to 100,000 broken egg shells in her works.

You can count the number for yourself on the arrival of her latest site-specific work, Timeframe (2016), at the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition, which opened at York St Mary's last Wednesday.

"As an interdisciplinary artist, I research in different genres the small gap between the composition and the decomposition of pictures, finding extraordinary transitions and transformations in the process," says the Dusseldorf artist, one of the eight finalists shortlisted for the main prize.

"By using broken eggshells, I create a multitude of different shades of white in the exhibition space, as rays of light will be broken at the innumerable sharp edges of the shells – a flittering, magical moment, citing an optical phenomenon, like the graphic alternation of light and dark in drawings or the pointillists’ refined approach to depicting light." This is a "spatial painting", as she calls it.

York Press:

Jennifer Lopez Ayala's Timeframe (2016) in the York St Mary's Nave. Picture: Jim Poyner Photography

This way, the mental image of the everyday object, in this case “eggshell”, is psychologically redefined, says Jennifer. "It appears like a white sea of soft flowers in the installation," she explains.

"Additionally, I involve the spectator and their body in the architecture of the exhibition: the room is purposefully modified with paint and film to dissolve the structure of the prevailing architecture and the medium. The exhibition space becomes the art space and the artwork leaves the picture plane, while the spectator physically enters it.

"During this development, the organisation and re-organisation of the picture and its surroundings gains ever more importance, which finally leads to the philosophical question, 'Who or what is the material of the picture? You, myself, the egg, or the space?'."

Jennifer's most important theme for her York St Mary's piece is "the metamorphosis or transfiguration of the space". "The piece is an ode to the beauty that is often hidden in the simple things," she says. "Moreover, it is to remind people that there is a beginning in every breaking, like in the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

"I, too, transfigure the space. To this end, I usually look for the strongest visual energy in a given space and either take it up or contrast it with an opposing energy. In this case, the hefty, dark, powerful and mystic Gothic church architecture, loaded with history, is contrasted with the light, white, fragile and profane eggshells.

"Facing the massive white surface, the viewer is exposed to a strong physical sensation that stems from a mixture of power and powerlessness. This is a moment of holding your breath at first, of stopping in your tracks out of fear to break something on the one hand, and a bodily desire to step into the picture on the other; the sea of eggshells just seems to pull you in. Ultimately, it is a moment given away; the eggshells become vessels and start to fill with stories."

York Press:

Eggshell painter Jennifer Lopez Ayala

Jennifer's other defining theme is time. "The most inspiring aspect of York St Mary’s is that, over the centuries, countless people have walked through this building, each with their own unique history. These steps are embedded into the floor as permanent traces of time," she says.

"In my work, the theme of time comprises the material itself – the eggshell – as well as the form that this material takes within the space. Symbolically, the eggshell embodies both birth and death. Re-contextualised, this everyday object becomes something sublime and aesthetic."

Jennifer is delighted to be an Aesthetica Art Prize finalist. "I've often looked forward to my work going on a journey one day. I’m very grateful that its first destination has turned out to be England," she says. "Since my childhood, I’ve often visited England and I’ve grown to love this country. I also appreciate many of its artists, e. g. Andy Goldsworthy, and would’ve loved to spend a semester abroad over here during my studies."

Jennifer considers herself to be a painter, even though she "paints with no more canvas, no more paints and no more story", so let her explain why. "I'm particularly interested in the colour white, which I paint into space by means of up to 100,000 eggshells. The changing concentration and resolution of the eggshells are evocative of pixels or the impressionistic treatment of colour in pointillism," she says.

"The defining moment for me was when a ray of sunlight hit an eggshell in my studio, where the egg was ever-present as a painting medium (during my classic education in painting I’ve always mixed my own white paint in egg tempera). This very moment was pure and absolute painting for me."

In painting, she always felt constricted by having to turn her back on the world, by the painting having no reverse side and by the viewer being limited physically in viewing the image. "But what bothered me the most was that my handwriting, my flow, my style, my socialisation were always present and repeating in the picture," says Jennifer.

York Press:

Walking in between eggshells: Jennifer Lopez Ayala's Timeframe (2016) in situ at York St Mary's. Picture: Jim Poyner Photography

"By taking a closer look at the importance of the rest in music and the blank space in art – be it figurative (an empty chair besides the main figure) or abstract (the white surface) – I arrived at the question: how much intervention from myself does my painting really need?

"From this arose the decision to paint with no more canvas, no more paints and no more story. Isn’t the moment of standing in front of a blank canvas the best one, when everything is possible? This is the moment I wanted to give to the viewers of my images."

Looking ahead, Jennifer, what is on your To Do list next? "1. More eggs. I'm still hungry. 2. To visit the most beautiful spots in the world (or get invited) to paint more images. 3. After York comes New York....!"

The 2016 Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition runs at York St Mary's, Castlegate, York, until May 29.