ANIMA – definition: soul, spirit, vital principle
This body of work explores the essence of life’s processes as revealed through an artistic interpretation of scientifically derived imagery. These images draw upon principles of Contemporary Biomorphic Design which has evolved from organic abstraction, found across movements in modern art. The works in this series respond directly to the constraints of the scientific imagery upon which they are based.
Each image in this series interprets a microorganisms’ structure and processes, and provides a glimpse into the unseen world of microscopic life forms. These microorganisms are all significant to the world we live in, however, we rarely acknowledge their presence. These large format prints provide us an opportunity to engage with the inner workings of life itself on a scale we can appreciate relative to our own.
Xylem and Phloem
The name of this series of large format digital prints, ANIMA – definition: soul, spirit, vital principle (Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1982), has guided the production of the work, which explores the essence of life’s processes as revealed through an artistic interpretation of scientifically derived imagery. The works expand upon the notion of Vital Forms, biomorphic design themes present across art and design culture throughout the twentieth century (Votalato, 2002). Aesthetically this body of work resembles the organismic patterning and line work found in traditional forms of Batik produced for centuries across Asia and the Middle East. It also draws on the illustrative power of Japanese Anime landscapes to convey a sense of the mysterious otherworld, the soulful environment
The ubiquitous if invisible presence of life itself is the fundamental inspiration for this series of artworks. This series of large format digital prints on satin banner cloth are derived from electron microscopy images of cellular structures. These artistic interpretations of scientific imagery aim to entice the viewer into a deeper contemplation of life itself, an invisible yet ubiquitous presence. The microorganisms and microscopic life processes illustrated in these larger than life portraits have a profound if unseen influence on our daily lives (Paustian, 2003). These works provide us a glimpse into these unseen worlds within and around us.
Japanese Anime environments, specifically the purpose for which they are created, have inspired and informed this work. Often simple and flat designs, these images convey the spirit of the place in which the action is set (Ranyard, J. 2006). While these iconic graphic narrative environments are macroscopic, the images in the series ANIMA convey a sense of interiority, and inner landscapes which set the stage for the process of life itself.
Karal Ann Marling’s multidisciplinary analysis of organic and biomorphic themes across arts, design, and communication in Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960, states:
“ … form in motion – breathing, reactive form – was an aesthetic principle that made itself manifest in virtually every object of visual and material culture …” (Votalato, 2002).
The arts practice of which ANIMA is the latest iteration embodies this aesthetic principle, exploring universal principles of vitality and aliveness through a contemporary biomorphic abstraction.
Aesthetically the works in this series are reminiscent of the organic patterns and striking line work found in Traditional Batik Paintings. This ancient artform is used to produce intricate, abstract images of organic forms on textiles (Fraser-Lu, S. 1986) which is where the ANIMA series finds a common aesthetic context. Flat design, line, and colour are used to convey the spirit of the living organism represented. Where the organic shapes in the Batik tradition represent an interpretation of macroscopic organisms and environmental patterns, ANIMA represent microscopic organisms, patterns of growth and disruptions to life. Each piece is informed by a specific type of micro-organism or life process. This work explores questions related to the inquiry “what is life?” exploring notions of what is generative and what is degenerative, where does life arise and how is it transformed.
The use of design principles and methods support the rendering of a unique graphic identity for the microorganisms and processes this series represents (Lupton, 1996). The works themselves seek to illustrate the animated quality of life’s processes by employing techniques which create subtle optical illusions, tricking the eye of the viewer into such movement that the work itself seems alive. This series of works represents an artistic consideration and interpretive illustration of patterns of movement as signs of life found in natural forms and phenomena, cycles of growth, evolution, flow, and decay in organisms and environment. It explores the seeing of forms and phenomena from multiple perspectives, acts of perception, and the potential for seeing into forms and phenomena usually invisible in the world around us. The work utilises deconstruction and reconstruction, interpretation and manipulation of digital images to develop a visual language (Erwig et.al. 2016) for concept transmission beyond representation, exploring the relationship between art and design, and employing abstraction in graphic design, a technique pioneered by Herbert matter (Mount, 1991).
For this project, a series of images has been produced using graphic design methods to create an artistic interpretation of scientific visual data. The source imagery has been collected according to two criteria, its relevance to the theme of the series ANIMA, and its amenity to being abstracted using the methodology devised for rendering the finished artworks. This work represents a contextual reframing of the source images, from laboratory acquired visual data, to gallery presented visual art. The ANIMA series of works, as an interpretation of scientific data, aims to produce a second order of significations in the image, whereas scientific interpretation processes aim to produce a literal meaning of the given image (Allamel-Raffin, C. 2015).
Four finished works in an extensible series …
- Xylem and Phloem
- Xylem and phloem form the vascular system of plants to transport water and other substances throughout the plant.
- Peanibacillus Dendritiformis
- Paenibacillus dendritiformis is a species of pattern-forming bacteria which is a social microorganism that forms colonies with complex and dynamic architectures.
- Cyanobacteria Anabaena
- Anabaena, and cyanobacteria in general, were some of the first photosynthetic organisms, and were responsible for many of the conditions that made more life on earth possible. Without the early cyanobacteria we would not have a lot of the oxygen needed for life.
- Borrelia Bergdorferi
- burgdorferi infects a wide range of vertebrate animals including small mammals, lizards, and birds. Ticks of the genus Ixodes transmit B. burgdorferi between hosts and are the only natural agents through which humans have been shown to become infected.
Through a process of research and reflective creativity, engaging in a range of methodologies, I have been able to produce a series of unique yet related works. The works extend upon and combine techniques from a number of disparate areas across arts and science. The series is coherent and extensible, allowing for hanging as is, and also further development of the work into a larger series for stand-alone exhibition in the future. The processes used to create this series allow for the images to be rendered across a range of media, to produce animated screen based and projected versions, and any dimension of printed outputs from the digital files.
Allamel-Raffin, C. 2015, “Interpreting Artworks, Interpreting Scientific Images”, Leonardo, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 76-77, viewed 22 April 2017, < http://muse.jhu.edu.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/article/566127 >
Erwig, M., Smeltzer, K. & Wang, X. 2016, “What is a Visual Language?”, Journal of Visual Languages & Computing, viewed 14 May 2017, < https://doi-org.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/10.1016/j.jvlc.2016.10.005>
Fraser-Lu, S. 1986, Indonesian batik: processes, patterns, and places, Oxford University Press, New York, Singapore pp.43-52.
Johnson, K. 1998, ART IN REVIEW; ‘Biomorphic Abstraction’, The New York Times Company, viewed 24 April 2017, <http://go.galegroup.com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=james_cook&id=GALE|A150103543&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&authCount=1 >
Lupton, E. & Cooper-Hewitt Museum 1996, Mixing messages: graphic design in contemporary culture, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution and Princeton Architectural Press, New York, pp. 83-104.
Mount, C. 1991, The Graphic Designs of Herbert Matter, accessed 15 May 2017 <https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/340 >
Ranyard, J. 2006, “Japanese Anime and the Life of the Soul: Full Metal Alchemist”, Psychological Perspectives, vol. 49, no. 2, pp. 267-277, viewed 27 April 2017, <http://www.tandfonline.com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1080/00332920600998320 >
Paustian, T. 2003, Chapter 5 Studying microbes helps us to understand the world around us, Through the microscope – a microbiology textbook, viewed 19 April 2017, <http://www.microbiologytext.com/5th_ed/book/displayarticle/aid/23>
Si, Z.J., Wang, J. & Gu, C. 2012, “Research and Application on Screen Soft Proofing Technology in Printing Quality Control”, Applied Mechanics and Materials, vol. 262, pp. 263, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://search.proquest.com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/docview/1442531946?pq-origsite=summon>
Votalato, G. 2002, Review, Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960, Oxford University Press.