Thursday, November 19, 2009
In a special guest post, artist Franziska Schenk explains the inspiration for her exhibition ‘In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution’, which opened at the BIAD School of Art in Birmingham this week.
My solo exhibition ‘was specifically developed to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’.
It responds to a seminal quote from the book where Darwin acknowledges that “to suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances … could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree”. Subsequently, the eye has been a contentious focus in evolutionary theory.
Twenty years on Darwin applied the same line of reasoning to eyespot development – notably drawing comparisons between evolutionary and artistic processes. In the ‘The Descent of Man’ he states “that these ornaments should have formed through the selection of many successive variations, not one of which was originally intended, … seems as incredible, as that one of Raphael’s Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint …” Of course Darwin then continues to, once again, reinforce his argument for natural selection.
With this in mind, and after careful consideration, I eventually pinpointed a rare and enigmatic moth (Erebus obscura) as inspiration – the moths outstanding, distinguishing feature being its astonishingly realistic eyespots. Mirroring the process of evolution I have employed innovative reproduction techniques to create successively modified versions – simultaneously magnifying, yet focusing in on, the subject. In an attempt to mimic the ephemeral quality of the colour, I have adapted and adopted novel bio-inspired iridescent nanoparticles. Depending on the light and viewing angle, an apparently dull brown moth transforms into a glitteringly iridescent beauty – before our very eyes.
Franziska Schenk is artist in residence at the Schools of Bioscience and Physics, University of Birmingham.
She will be giving a presentation about the exhibition at a special event at the BIAD School of Art on 24 November to coincide with the 150th anniversary.
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