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Art from a microscope



A fascinating union between science, art and architecture where the microscope represents the key to access an unknown world, yet one which is visible to everyone. This is the inspiration behind the work of English artist Shelley Burgoyne, currently Artist in residence at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia, and a guest of Ca’ Foscari’s Electronic Microscopy lab where she finds inspiration for her works.

Through scanning and optical electronic microscopes at the new Scientific Campus in via Torino (Mestre), the artist originally from Yorkshire is able to magnify and observe in detail samples of water from the Venetian canals which she herself collects: “These samples are full of movement and life” - she states - “very different from what I have been able to observe up until now!".

In the lagoon’s water organic (algae, diatoms, microorganisms) and inorganic (oil drops, dust) elements can be found, which are then translated into the wonderful geometric and floral patterns that detail her prints, and which often evoke elements of Venetian architecture. The process starts with direct microscopic observation of the samples, which then first become a drawing in the artist’s notebook, and are later printed on etching paper using incision. The algae explode into colorful fans, whereas the diatoms (mono-cellular algae) form a long colored coil, or patterns of black and white checkers which resemble Venetian “terrazzo” flooring.


Anti-clockwise from the right - square diatom observed with a scanning electronic microscope, notebook drawing by the artist, final work printed on paper, belonging to the “Ocean series”.

Her Venetian residence represents the evolution of an artistic itinerary that has been taking place for over 40 years, and which has maintained its focus on the relationship between art and nature.“Exploring images of flora, fauna, anatomy, water and tides forms the basis of my arts practice” - she says - “My recent work explores the visual possibilities of the connection between architecture and natural forms”. The works to have emerged from this project will be finished by the artist once she returns home, and will be displayed online in a new series of works inspired by the lagoon city at shelleyburgoyne.co.uk. Shelley does not, however, exclude the possibility of returning to Venice, perhaps, in fact, to display in the city the works created thanks to the lab run by Prof. Stefano Polizzi.


Algae and diatoms seen under a scanning microscope, and another work from the “Ocean series”.

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Last update: 05/10/2015 da System Administrators