Diatoms, art in a box of nature
Diatoms are microscopically small, single-celled algae. They protect their fragile cell contents using two external valves made of silicon dioxide that fit nicely together like a cheese box. Most diatoms are no bigger than a tenth or even a hundredth of a millimeter, but these algae still form the very important first link in the food chain. Diatoms in rivers and oceans fix half to two thirds of the atmospheric CO2 through their photosynthesis, producing that way also about 20% of all oxygen worldwide.
Each species has a unique pattern on its valves that facilitates the identification of the species. This pattern, consisting of a beautiful combination of lines and dots, gives these diatoms the allure of real, miniscule, small works of art. The exhibition "Diatoms, art in a box of nature" takes these valves and their design as a starting point. With different materials - ceramics, watercolour art, photography and printing - the shape and structure of diatoms are the central inspiration for the artists.
Prof. Dr. Bart Van de Vijver, a researcher at Meise Botanic Garden and the University of Antwerp, is the curator of this exhibition. He brought together 4 artists and 2 photographers around the idea of using diatoms as an art object. He himself delivered some beautiful pictures of diatom valves made with the help of a scanning electron microscope.
Maarten Vanden Eynde is a Flemish artist who lives and works in Brussels and Saint-Mihiel (France). His 5-metre work, The Power of None, represents the contemporary impact of silicon on daily life in a versatile way. Photographs of diatoms, made from a historical microscopic slide, were transferred using specialized printing techniques to large silicon disks, which were arranged as solar panels around a central silicon brain.
The Dutch artist Riet Bakker makes organic abstract ceramics from stoneware clay with a sleek design and a great eye for detail. Her work is inspired by the architectural aspect of shapes from nature and the dynamics of growth and movement of (micro-)organisms. For the exhibition she made a series of diatom ceramics based on photographs by Bart Van de Vijver and others.
The young French artist Marine Coutelas also tries to shape nature with ceramics. She is particularly interested in the shape and anatomy of plants that she displays in large, often complex, compositions of plant leaves and shells in plaster and ceramics.
Prof. Dr. Martyn Kelly is an English scientist who tries to portray communities of pebble algae in watercolours. His works take us into the very varied underwater world of rivers and lakes that are often much more diverse and richer than you might think.
Finally, Jef Schoors from the Royal Antwerp Society for Micrography delivered five light microscopic images of diatom algae taken from so-called historical salon preparations that are part of the famous Van Heurck collection, kept in the Botanic Garden in Meise.
For more information: Bart Van de Vijver (Meise Botanic Garden, 0032 2 260 09 41, email@example.com