The ‘Crossing Biological Membranes Network’ is composed of scientists working to understand the mechanisms by which substances are transported into, within, and out of cells. Their ultimate aim is to produce knowledge which will enable the development of new technologies in the Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy sector (eg: producing biofuels using E coli bacteria).
My role in this collaboration has been to translate the CBMNet area of work into a large outdoor mural located within the university campus. For this occasion I have presented my interpretation of a detail of a cell membrane as seen under an electron microscope, having undergone a cryofracture. A cryofracture is a procedure in which the sample is frozen quickly and then broken with a sharp blow so you are able to study its structure in very close detail – Imagine breaking a bar of chocolate with hazelnuts, this way you can see how hazelnuts are positioned inside the bar…
There is an incredible amount of information available about the structure & functioning of a biological membrane, and many ways to interpret this artistically. I chose to stick with the basic knowledge that biomembranes are mainly composed of the following molecules: phopholipids, cholesterol, proteins and carbohydrate ramifications (see diagram below), and that at any moment smaller molecules are transiting through it in both directions. All these elements are represented on the final visual.
Above: Diagram of a small portion of cell membrane
Learning the structure of biological membranes was one of my favourite topics during my PhD because it involved lots of drawing. Typically a biomembrane is made of two thin lipid sheets stuck together with large elements (proteins) inserted through them. In a cell, this molecular ensemble surrounds and prevents the inside of the cell from being in contact with the outside of the cell. This structure is highly dynamic: proteins move within this ‘bilayer’ in 2 dimensions to specific locations when the cell needs it. In order to represent this in an accurate diagram, you need to draw a 3 dimensions structure, which mostly had 2 dimensional capabilities, on a (2 dimensional) piece of paper – woo ha!
On view in the courtyard of Butcher Works in Sheffield UK, Topsy is a new project I’ve just completed.
Topsy was a female elephant born in south east asia around 1875. She met with an unfortunate fate after she was secretly brought into the United Sates to perform with the Forepaugh Circus. Not liking much her new environment she gradually gained a reputation as a “bad” elephant and, after killing a spectator in 1902, was sold to Coney Island’s Sea Lion Park.
Unfortunately things didn’t go better for her in Coney Island. When Sea Lion was leased out at the end of the 1902 season and redeveloped into Luna Park Topsy was involved in several well-publicized incidents, attributed to the actions of either her drunken handler or the park’s new publicity-hungry owners, Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy.
Their end-of-the-year plans to hang Topsy at the park in a public spectacle and charge admission were stopped by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The event was cut back to invited guests and press only and Thompson and Dundy agreed to use a more sure method of strangling the elephant with large ropes tied to a steam-powered winch with poison and electrocution planned for good measure. On January 4, 1903 in front of a small crowd of invited reporters and guests Topsy was fed poison, electrocuted, and strangled, the electrocution ultimately killing her. Amongst the press that day was a crew from the Edison Manufacturing movie company who filmed the event. Their film of the electrocution part was released to be viewed in coin-operated kinetoscopes under the title Electrocuting an Elephant.
The story of Topsy fell into obscurity for the next 70 years but has become more prominent in popular culture, partly due to the fact that the film of the event still exists. In popular culture Thompson and Dundy’s killing of Topsy has switched attribution, with claims it was an anti-alternating current demonstration organized by Thomas A. Edison during the War of Currents. Historians point out that Edison was never at Luna Park and the electrocution of Topsy took place 10 years after the War of Currents.
The scultpure will be auctioned later this year to raise funds for Artfelt, the Children’s Hospital art programe, helping children recover in an environment tailored to them. For more info on the project: http://www.herdofsheffield.com/
This week is the launch of Printing Sheffield 3D a new exhibition of works printed by the Printing Sheffield >>>3d team at Hallam university and curated by Human studio as part of Catalyst /Festival of Creativity.
For the occasion I created a series of structures titled ‘Moieties’ based on found objects, which were scanned and assembled together through 3D printing. I’m really pleased with the outcome and loved working on this. Thanks Ian Gwilt, Nick Dulake and Nick Bax for inviting me.
Friday is the opening of a new group exhibition at B&B Gallery: SOMETHING MADE DIFFERENT. I will be showing a series of new paintings inspired by my last trip to Bekkai Japan.
Owen Richards (UK), Seiko Kinoshita (JP), Jo Peel (UK), Florence Blanchard (FR), Christopher Jarratt (UK)
July 1st – 24th / B&B Gallery, Sheffield 95B Mary street
Opening times: Saturdays 10am – 4pm / weekdays by appointment
Private View: Friday 1st July / 6-9pm (Please RSVP email@example.com)
After a successful debut at Parades Gallery in Matsumoto, Japan, we are delighted to bring this wonderful group show to a UK audience. Join us for the second instalment of SOMETHING MADE DIFFERENT – a collaborative exhibition of new works by 5 international artists, inspired by Japanese imagery and experiences.
The juxtaposition of Japan’s rich cultural heritage sitting alongside unique social and pioneering technological environments lends itself to diverse responses. Each artist has spent time in various parts of Japan, which has informed their individual take on a country of great contrasts. Photographs, paintings, textiles and mixed media installations will be on view throughout in the B&B gallery space throughout July.
Summer is here and it is time for SOMETHING MADE DIFFERENT.