Beginning January 2002 I worked for six weeks the screenprinting studio at Megalo Access Arts which was then situated in the old school buildings at Hacket before it moved to the Watson facilities. This residency gave me a great opportunity to experiment with different ways of using the flat bed scans of the miniature plastic animals I had begun working with as part of my Maters at the ANU School of Art.
Wanting to emulate the process of close examination or magnification of the surface of the objects, I used photoshop and a photocopier. Discovering that if I cropped the image into sections of detail, printed it in a half tone and then enlarged it, the resulting abstract patterning began to refer nicely scientific investigation of cellular structures. I manipulated the shape of the half tone dot finding a way to make the tonal range morph from circles to squares. This changed the frequency in the half tone pattern causing a flickering optical effect. The kinetic nature of this work suggested to me a movement of molecular cells or atomic particles captured under a powerful lens.
In his book The Ascent of Science (Oxford University Press 1998), Brian L Silver writes that Brownian motion is a theory that proves, ‘all microscopic components of matter are jumping around; that gases, liquids and solids are characterised by ceaseless microscopic motion.’ The first time this movement was detected was by the Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who in 1927 was observing pollen grains suspended in water under the microscope, ‘and found that they were in continual motion, not in smooth waltz-like trajectories but in sudden, break dance-like jumps in all directions.’ He was the first scientist to prove molecular motion has infinite properties. For example, Silver explains, the pollen Brown was looking at in 1927 is still jumping today and,
if molecules stopped moving in liquids we would all drop dead. Within the living cell, materials have to be moved from place to place; otherwise, substances coming into the cell would not reach the molecules that they have to meet for the life process to continue. (pg 202)
Inspired by these ideas and by using this process of screenprinting panels of half tone pattern, I created ten large-scale canvases. Entitled Surface for air; the optical effect of the dots give the illusion that the surface of the canvas has captured a momentary glimpse of invisible structures. In 2002 I exhibited the works Creatures, Zipline and Closer in Surface for air in the Photomedia exhibition space at the ANU School of Art. It is a precursor to my graduation exhibition of the same title.
Surface for air 2002, Photomedia Gallery ANU School of Art
24/7 Exhibition Home, 2003, artsACT public art project in conjunction with ACT housing and ACT Craft, curated by Barbara McConchie