Impermanence: The art of microbiology

The Gallery Elena Shchukina autumn season will continue this October with an exhibition which exemplifies our criteria of featuring artists whose work is informed by dual forces.

‘Impermanence’ – the idea that all matter collapses – resonates through the work of Luke Jerram and Seung-Hwan Oh. Elements of microbiology have been incorporated into works by both artists, but rendered to very different effects. Gallery Elena Shchukina is delighted to have the opportunity to unite these works within one exhibition.  

Luke Jerram's sculptures and prints at Gallery Elena Shchukina form part of his Glass Microbiology series. Upon discovering that viruses are colourless, Jerram was motivated to create a series of glass sculpture virus cells which aim to create a tension between beauty and the horror of the diseases that the pieces represent. Jerram believes that his works are not complete until they are handled and explored by the viewer as it is the public’s engagement that activates his creations.

Seung-Hwan Ohs’ photographic portraits are distorted by their meeting with bacteria; the material worlds of the photographs are eroded. He bathes his film in water and homegrown bacteria for months, sometimes even years, blending the organic and the artificial, until appreciable damage has taken place. This process creates a tension between what is still visible, and what is lost. These images do not dictate what to say – they are left open to the viewer’s interpretation. To some, these beautiful works are disturbing, as their natural form has been destroyed.

Science and Art are considered opposites, one analytical, the other often expressive. However, both Jerram and Oh unite these opposites and create magnificent works by doing so. An article by the Wellcome Collection sums this up perfectly – these artists take what is seen and understood and create something beautiful: “Our society could hardly exist without either [science or art], but when they come together our culture is enriched, sometimes in unexpected ways.”

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