Materials, Art and Science – It’s In The Details

'Xylem Series - Terfesia 6’ (surface detail). Resin, ink, enamel, thorium on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips
Visual artists Miik Green & Ioannis Michaloudis experiment with materials to create unique and aesthetically beautiful artworks. Normally we don’t see much art at Hello Materials Blog, but here at Danish Design Centre we think their work is very interesting in a material point of view. Therefore we’d like to share some of their work with you. Enjoy.

Green and Michaloudis are based at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, and make artwork within the boundaries that exist between science and art. These artists have recently written and presented papers in Beijing and France regarding art, design and sustainability. Green’s work investigates how uniting heterogeneous, synthetic materials can reveal the inherent qualities found in natural forms, and in the world around us, while Michaloudis utilises the ethereal medium ‘Aerogel’, a material developed for interstellar space technology, to create sculptural works.
‘A Piece of Sky Between Your Fingers’ Silica Aerogel, vapour, dimensions variable, ©Michalou(di)s 2004
‘A Piece of Sky Between Your Fingers’ Silica Aerogel, vapour, dimensions variable, ©Michalou(di)s 2004.

These unique works contain and seal the cloud-like forms, acting as vessels that support the wispy, cirrus-like forms, shapes reminiscent of cumulus clouds within the substrate. In the natural world, these cloud forms culminate in various aesthetic arrangements depending on their position within the troposphere. This form of ‘cloud capture’ embodies physical encapsulation of cloud form through the synthesis of non-material. The white cluster looks similar to an explosion, suspended in motion yet still with the appearance of movement.
To capture such moments in physical material is difficult, normally only possible through mediums such as photography. The photographer can capture what the human eye could never see, presenting a static image. This record is intriguing because while everything is in motion and subjected to forces (time, gravity, pressure, thermal etc) the snapshot allows a representation of truth is presented in this form. While the Cloned Sky works are in a similar stasis to the photograph, they are more intriguing in their three-dimensional form.‘Hands-Aegis’ (Installation). Silica aerogel, ready-made mannequin hands, road safety painting, glass microbeads, 1120 x 45 x 20cm, ©Michalou(di)s 2011.
‘Hands-Aegis’ (Installation). Silica aerogel, ready-made mannequin hands, road safety painting, glass microbeads, 1120 x 45 x 20cm, ©Michalou(di)s 2011.

Observing a vial that holds these cloud-forms is akin to viewing a portion of contained sky. Climate change and greenhouse effect issues are posing a crucial question: will the sky continue to hang over us, or will this protective garment eventually disappear? A piece of sky that can be experienced physically may supply the answer. Also, handling these delicate works offer more questions than answers on these issues.

Uniting heterogeneous, synthetic materials
Green similarly maintains a focus on the natural world through material experimentation. Using enamels, resins, inks and even radioactive matter, Green mixes products that react and oppose one another: separating, islanding and bleeding. The resistance between these synthetic products creates unique forms and surface patterns that reference the original, organic subject matter. The significance of this body of work is that new structures and material possibilities for an art and design practice are revealed in structures such as pollen, diatoms, cellular organisms and radiolaria.
'Xylem Series - Terfesia 6’ (surface detail). Resin, ink, enamel, liquid zirconia and polonium on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips
‘Xylem Series – Terfesia 6’ (surface detail). Resin, ink, enamel, liquid zirconia and polonium on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips

Ernst Haekel studied and sketched radiolarian (marine protozoa) as a special field of interest. These organisms contain unique mathematical symmetry and fractal qualities, which formed the basis for Benoit Mandelbrot’s 1977 publication, ‘Fractals – Form Chance and Dimension’. By proposing new modes and methods of understanding, such as the measurement of natural forms, Mandelbrot revolutionised the field of mathematics outside the typical understanding of (Euclidean) geometry. Discussing this he states “Many important spatial patterns of Nature are either irregular or fragmented to such a degree that Euclid – a term used in this essay to denote all of classical geometry – is hardly of any help in describing their form” (Mandelbrot, B. 1982. 1). These works translate elements of this abstract geometry into artworks that aestheticise these unique forms. The ‘Xylem series’ are two-dimensional, mixed-media works on aluminium, inspired by the cross section found in plant stems.
'Xylem Series - Avium 6’ (surface detail). Mixed media on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips
‘Xylem Series – Avium 6’ (surface detail). Mixed media on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips

These natural structures can be viewed through the microscope and can reveal aspects of processes that were previously unseen, and seek to reveal similar ideas of the unseen in nature using art materials. The xylem function is a process in which a plant draws water up through internal structures: viewed in cross-section, these tubes reveal an intriguing arrangement of oval shapes. To represent these structures in an art context, the materials interact with (and resist) each other to re-create forms reminiscent of these microbiological shapes.
'Xylem Series - Avium 6’. Mixed media on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips
‘Xylem Series – Avium 6’. Mixed media on aluminium, 185 x 185cm, 2012. Image: Ben Phillips


Miik Green is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Perth Western Australia, represented by Stella Downer Fine Art (NSW) and Linton & Kay Contemporary (WA). A recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship, Green is a PhD candidate at Curtin University of Technology.

Green draws his inspiration from the microscopic aspects of nature, and is currently involved in cross-disciplinary artistic collaborations that integrate the fields of science, mathematics, chemistry and physics. The strength of his practice lies in his ability to translate microforms such as fungi, coral, seed pods, diatoms, blood cells and radiolarian, into paintings and sculptural pieces, while preserving the integrity of the original form.
Further works here.

Dr. Ioannis MICHALOUdiS received his Ph.D in Visual Arts at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne in 1998. In 2001 had received the Fulbright Award in order to achieve a postdoctoral research titled (Nephele)3 at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His aer( )sculpture project is an art & science research concerning the creation of artworks using silica aerogel, a material used by NASA in space exploration, an immaterial material having the appearance of a fragment of sky.
Further works here.


Maria HørmannAbout Maria Hørmann
Maria is editor of Hello Materials Blog and Project Manager of the Danish Design Centre’s Design & Innovation team. She follows closely the development within the environmental area, and has a broad, professional knowledge of materials.
> More about Maria Hørmann

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