The Abstract Universe: Microcosm/Macrocosm Reveals Art Inspired by Science—Part I

The Abstract Universe: Microcosm/Macrocosm Reveals Art Inspired by Science—Part I

On January 23, 2012, over 200 people gathered to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition,
The Abstract Universe: Microcosm/Macrocosm, which reveals how contemporary abstract artists are inspired by scientific ideas, images and theories in the creation of their art. In this and future posts, I will highlight the images of the art in the exhibition and some of the ideas behind each piece as discussed by the artists themselves.

Inspired by various aspects of biology, Richard L. Dana, Michele Fraichard, and Valerie Huhn have been integrating cellular images and events into their artworks. Dana, whose acrylic on wood painting is called, Le Voyage Fantastique (The Fantastic Voyage), incorporates cellular images into this piece.

Richard Dana, Le Voyage Fantastique, 2010, Acrylic on wood

He writes, “I can make no claim to being a scientist, but I am an artist layman who omnivorously, if somewhat randomly, devours texts addressing the evolution of science, both past and present. Many of the texts which I devour are accompanied by illustrations. These combinations of text and illustration frequently serve as inspiration for the imagery found in my art…but more often my imagery reflects a subconscious transformation of text and illustration into visual object. Unlike a scientist I am making no effort to arrive at an objective truth, but like a scientist I embrace the wonder and mystery of reality. Le Voyage Fantastique, is from a series of paintings entitled Sequence. A formal interest of mine is the exploration of forms for visual narration; these paintings break the pictorial plane into bands of separate but related imagery, so collectively the bands create an abstract narrative. With these paintings, much of the imagery in the bands is inspired by scientific illustrations and/or ideas, whether microscopic, macroscopic, or somewhere in between.

Two paintings, Broken Waters and Liquid Birth I by California artist, Michelle Fraichard, also reveal primitive and cellular forms.

Michele Fraichard, Broken Waters, 2011, Oil on canvas

Fraichard remarks about these and other works in this series, “My current work centers around biology, geometry and the ethereal, combining those concepts to weave a pattern of connectedness and glimpses into the divine intelligence that pulses throughout existence. This direction was born from a fascination with the initial ‘spark’ that lies deep within those first movements, before form, description or purpose takes on shape.

Michele Fraichard, Liquid Birth I, 2011, Mixed media on canvas

She continues,”Many of the works center around Protists, early life forms, which for me represent beginnings; a metaphor for that raw state wherein a multitude of potential lies. Alas, they are my ponderings about creation and an examination of how science parallels heaven. The layers, transparencies, colors, textures and luminosity are all metaphors that seek to convey both the correlations, as well as the transient states continually cycled.”

Michele Fraichard, Liquid Birth I, 2011, Mixed media on canvas

New York based photographer and video artist Valerie Huhn designed a sculptural attachment for a TV monitor through which we see a constantly changing group of images that reference cells, molecules, prisms, and abstracted biological forms as well as much larger forms. Here is a still from this Untitled work:

Huhn notes, “The video piece is extracted from a larger study of water I have been engaged in for the last ten years. It deals with nature being contained or restructured by man in some artificial way. All of the imagery is of water reconfigured in the shape of public fountains, retaining walls, jetties or landscaped creeks—water in an unnatural or artificial environment. It seems, in conscious and unconscious ways, a reflection of humanity’s desire to surround ourselves with water—no matter how unnatural the setting. Koi ponds and golf courses in the desert, cement fountains and reflecting pools in the city. All of which once again raises the question—what is artificial, and what is real?

Valerie Huhn, Still image from Untitled, 2011/12, DVD

Questions—What entices you about cellular and molecular structures? Do you know other artworks that focus on these small organic shapes to create abstract work? I look forward to your answers.
Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D.

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