Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Tree of life progress

All the tree sculpting is now done, painted, and attached to a canvas. The next step involves a bit of homage to Kandinsky, where I'm accenting the tree with raised dots in blue and yellow.  


I’ve always had a strong suspicion that the pretty round coloured things in Kandinsky's paintings actually represent photisms.  He did like to pursue non-material subject matter, and appears to have experienced synaesthesia, which typically involves coloured photisms.  The neurobiology and cultural significance of our brains' ability to see things that aren't there are quite interesting too, so adding some photisms to the tree of life seemed appropriate.

These little dots are gilded around the edges, to provide some contrast and brighten the whole thing up a bit, as well as to make them reflective and thus more suggestive of photisms.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

It's nice to be doing some art again

The tree of life, in its formative stages

I started this sculpture in May, before getting sidetracked by this thing.  Now I have time to give the tree of life sculpture some attention, and therefore something to blog about here.  It’s made with paper filaments, some of which have wire inside them so they can be bent into shape, and the concept here is basically a mashup of this:

Image from Fine Art America.

And this:

The larger filaments of the sculpture follow the outline of the streets in this map of Kelburn, but flipped upside down because it makes a nicer tree shape that way, and re-imagined as blood vessels inside an organism.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Sculpture with mitochondria

The sculpture of mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum I was working on in my last post is now finished and framed.

Here are some of the mitochondria in close up, with their internal structure visible the way they frequently are in samples prepared using a cryofracture or freeze fracture:

The colour scheme is entirely based around a jar of Egyptian Violet that I couldn't resist buying, but it reminds me of a Terry Pratchett quote about anatomy: 

"I thought I’d show everyone what I’m made of. And now they’ll probably find out: I’m made of lots of tubes and greeny purple wobbly bits."

I have two more of these frames, and eventually I want to complete a series of these sculptures looking at different aspects of cellular biology.  My colleague points out that the mitochondria would look great with EL wire inside them, so that's something to keep in mind for the future.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Beginning another SEM-based sculpture

The world as seen through a scanning electron microscope is a beautiful and fascinating place.  These are mitochondria inside a cell: notice that some of the mitochondria are cut open and their internal structure is visible.  The concertina-like folds inside them are protein membranes inside the mitochondrial wall called cristae.  The mitochondria are shown embedded in endoplasmic reticulum.

That yellow oxide colour is just a base layer.  In the next post I'l show the final paint effect, which will involve a lot of magenta and Egyptian violet.  The yellow oxide contrasts with these and will highlight the interior structure of the mitochondria.  

For comparison, this is a SEM photo of mitochondria inside the endoplasmic reticulum:

Image result for mitochondria sem
Image from Woods Lab

It took me a while to get the mitochondria looking how I wanted them to.  On the left here is my first attempt, and on the right is a second, more successful attempt.  I wanted a feathery effect for the cristae so they would contrast with the crisper edges of the endplasmic reticulum folds.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Sculpture with Knossos floor plans

Continuing the labyrinth theme from the previous post,  but turning now to prehistory rather than palaeontology,  I've been working on a relief using the floor plan of the main palace building at Knossos.

People tend to identify the Knossos buildings with the mythical labyrinth in which Theseus fought the Minotaur.  The idea is that mainland Greeks found Minoan buildings confusing and easy to get lost in, being rather more complex than the buildings they had back home. It sounds plausible, but this idea really came from Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated Knossos in the early 20th century and who, despite his debatable merits as an archaeologist, was a great PR man.  Regardless, it makes for a nice artistic composition.

This is an exploded diagram of sorts, with the main ground floor of the palace building to the right, and the surviving portion of the second floor to the left.  Originally there would have been perhaps five floors, but the upper floors haven't survived.

Close up showing the floor plan for the first floor of the Knossos building.

Plan showing what remains of the second floor.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Labyrinthodont teeth

Finally, I'm getting some new content up on here!   Today's blog post is about palaeoart, though it's really more art than palaeo.  These are sculptural studies showing three cross sections of labyrinthodont teeth.

Labyrinthodonts were a group of carnivorous amphibians common during the late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic, and their key distinctive feature was their teeth.  These things are fascinating.  What's happening here is that the enamel folds in on itself towards the center of the tooth, creating characteristic channels inside the tooth structure.

 It seems the teeth evolved this way because the infolded enamel made them stronger while the teeth were growing.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Lamina cribrosa sculpture

I finished the lamina cribrosa sculpture ages ago, but didn't post about it until now because I wasn't sure if I liked it, or if I wanted to change the colours completely.  So I left it alone for ages, and now that I come back to it I think it's probably okay as it is.

The more I look at it, the more I see the eye of Sauron.  I'm okay with that, though.

I did want to do some interesting things with colours on this sculpture, because that's half the fun of sculpting something as seen through an electron microscope.  The microscope itself doesn't produce a coloured image, but it's common practice to add colours in post-production.  Strong colour contrasts (such as blue/orange, red/green, yellow/purple) are a popular choice, partly because they look cool and partly because they help viewers identify different parts of the image.

I've stuck to that convention and used magenta and chrome yellow on the lamina cribrosa, with Payne's grey on the surrounding membrane.  Here it is in close up: