Since 2004, I have been developing the idea that a different kind of aesthetic is created when events are deployed on curved canvases. Marks created in this way take on the form of the geometric profile.
The curved canvases are worked on as three dimensional objects. However, rather than considering the interplay between solid and space as a sculpturist does, my forethought is to return to the ‘flat two dimensional picture plane’. As this reflects our ingrained version of reality — that we are tied to a 2D universe yet entangled with all its probabilities in the vastness of infinite space.
I call this approach Membrane Art. As it is the curved canvas surfaces that creates the basic structure for each work of art. Only when it is unraveled and stretched-out does the aesthetic emerge.
Membrane Art is inspired by the present context of a ‘multi-dimensional’ universe and the way nature itself could be. An aesthetic thought that I continue to evolve.
Helium Sculpture along with 9 other pieces are on display at Little Bang Brewing until August 15, 2019.
In the 1950s and 1960s, with his work on ‘spatialism’ Lucio Fontanta gave us a new concept of space. His gestural expressions of ‘buchi and tagli’ (cuts and holes) called for a new art form that reflected and responded to the current understanding of space and time. Especially with his sharp edge cutting of the canvas, he was able to show that you can extend the 2D object into a 3D conceptual one. His work created an image through the direct engagement of both the canvas’s physical properties and the space that exists around it. In a nutshell — he made us think about the role of the surrounding space. Lucio-fontana.
Rather than the surface exposing time and space. My work ties us to it. Firstly, by creating marks in a 3D curvature construct. Reciprocal and distinct cavities develop as one expression. These marks are only possible through the advent of a curve. So when finally, we do observed the results on a 2D flattened picture plane (the switch from 3D to 2D represents the collapse of ‘probabilities’), a network of emptiness emerges — reverberating as a mirrored envelope, reflecting our ingrained version of reality.
An aesthetic that is deeply rooted in the present context of a ‘multi-dimensional’ universe and the way nature itself could be.
A series of work that visualises a quantum world — sculptured on curved surfaces, then observed by us in a 2D picture plane. A network of emptiness (little bangs) that reverberates as a mirrored envelope, reflecting our ingrained version of reality.
Distinct and reciprocal cavities develop when mark making events are created on curved structures. So that when it is transformed to the flattened observed form, a truth about the human condition emerges – that we are tied to a 2D universe yet entangled in all its probabilities in the vastness of infinite space.
Here are a number of pieces that will go on display at my coming exhibition at Little Bang Brewing. Details to be confirmed.
Distinct and reciprocal cavities develop when mark making events are created on curved structures. So that when it is transformed to the flattened observed form, a truth about the human condition emerges – that we are tied to a 2D universe yet entangled in all its probabilities in the vastness of infinite space.
This double-sided framed sculpture will go on display at my coming exhibition at Little Bang Brewing (25 Henry Street, Stepney, South Australia). Details to be confirmed.
I’m proud to announce that Little Bang Brewery will host my art once they’ve settled into their new premises in Stepney. The exhibition is likely to be in early 2019 and will feature a range of new work exploring what I call ‘Quantum Brushstrokes’. Further details to come.
I’m honoured to be selected as a finalist in the Open Category of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™ 2018 for my piece ‘Oxygen Captured’.
This is the third time I have been selected as a finalist in this prestigious exhibition. My entry ‘Oxygen Captured’ represents a single oxygen atom. By representing this atom at a human scale, I hope it will highlight the precious qualities oxygen has for our existence. However, the below image is not the side you will see on display. It is intended as an insight into my ‘hole’ working method. Illustrating how I can work on both sides of the canvas as one ‘complete’ expression — an aesthetic I call Quantum Brushstrokes. And an Artistic Approach that I consider is neither painting nor sculpture.
The reverse side of Oxygen Captured: The above image shows my working notes. Although this side is not on display, it illustrates my working method. An approach that I believe creates works of art that is neither a painting nor a sculpture. Front side is on display at the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™.
See for yourself — the front side will go on display, with all the other selected finalists’ works, at the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™ finalists’ exhibition, South Australian Museum from June 8 until August 5, 2018.
‘I’m re-imagining our universe — entangled in the void of spacetime; As the image transforms from the three dimensional to the two dimensional form, it emerges free to endlessly stretch out beyond the limits of the flattened picture plane.’
Oxygen Captured: Presented side on display at the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™.
Malcolm’s Artistic Approach: Is it painting or sculpture?
Since 2004, I have been developing the idea that a different kind of aesthetic is created when events are deployed on a curved canvas rather than a flat ‘two dimensional’ plane. Marks created in this way take on the form of the geometric profile, so that when the results are re-stretched to the two dimensional picture plane, the aesthetic emerges. I call this approach Membrane Art — as it is the curvature profile(s) of the surfaces that underpins the development of each artwork.
Like a sculptor who works in three dimensional space, this approach allows me to engage with all dimensions, space and surface, including both sides of the surface. However, unlike a sculptor, when ‘painting’ in this way surfaces are partially, or completely, obscured from my sight. Also, unlike painting directly onto a flat picture plane, the flexibility of the curved canvas surface allows for reciprocal marks to result that cannot be achieved on a flat surface. However, the key is always to return to the two dimensional picture plane as this generates the human visual experience.
Why paint in this way?
Recognising that the surface membrane creates the basic structure for the artwork is only the beginning. Results can either echo, connect and/or entangle themselves in ways that cannot be achieved in our flat dimensional world — yet, in the end, you never truly know what you’re going to be looking at until you unroll it. It shows that the markings have come from somewhere else — where expression and sculpture unite — which is why I consider this approach neither painting nor sculpture.
Creating a different kind of abstraction is born out of a need to ‘geometrically’ define our multi-dimensional universe. It shows a world that we cannot observe directly, yet we know it exists. So the meaning may appear latent but the premise and execution of the artwork is far from it. There certainly is a sense of freedom by working in this way. Creating a gestural response that is deeply-rooted in the present context of quantum physics yet not bound by its mathematical theorems, provides an artistic licence to explore.
MA#41: My entry in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™ 2014 finalists’ exhibition was Highly Commended.
Membrane Art holds true — regardless of whether the events made on the surface are painted, sprayed, poured, drilled, slashed, stamped, cracked or any other kind of mark-making. It is the curved nature of the membrane surface that creates the structural expressions for the work and, provided the work is presented in a flattened two dimensional form for observation, it is a consequence of the aesthetic thought.
Similar to the way things may appear in nature at the atomic level, we may not fully comprehend the methods and sequences that allow it to appear the way it is but it seems to form part of our inherent reality.
Painting today needs possibilities, to go beyond a rehashed post-Minimalist or process-based ideas from the ’60s and ’70s, and discover a beauty that it can call its own.
Here is my Artist Statement that relates to my entry ‘Oxygen Captured’ in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™.
The complex science surrounding the properties of a particle (ref. Atomic No.8) is fundamental to the formation of the conditions that promoted life on our oxygenated earth.
The constituent parts of an atom – protons, neutrons and electrons are represented by drill holes through a furled canvas (protons, neutrons) and sawn slashes (electrons). When the canvas is re-stretched to 2D form the drill holes and saw cuts create equidistant opposing “marks” within the white surface as in the inner vastness of atomic space.
The wave-like furling of the canvas, and the passage of drill and saw marks through it, when arranged in this fashion result in the kind of symmetry that is reminiscent of atomic structure and dynamic particle relationships that are the basis of all matter.
About the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™.
The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize commemorates the birth of the South Australian Museum’s first curator, Frederick George Waterhouse. The biennial prize is an opportunity for artists to investigate the world around them, and present their perspectives on natural science. It encourages artists to make a statement about the scientific issues facing our planet, and offers a valuable platform for them to contribute to the environmental debate. Over the years the competition has become a much loved fixture on the arts calendar, allowing artists and audiences to explore natural science through a range of creative outlets. South Australian Museum – Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™.
Lithium Mesh: My entry in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize™ 2016 finalists’ exhibition was Highly Commended.
More about Malcolm’s approach: Membrane Art: An evolving expression.
What started out as an investigation to find an authentic aesthetic manifestation of our natural world, particularly the way we observe it, has materialised into something more concrete, Membrane Art — a practice of allowing the surface geometry to play a part in creating distinctive expression and unfolding events.
The initial proposition was to fold, or undulate, a loose canvas (take it off the frame) and paint on it – then compress the depth by stretching the canvas back onto the frame (flat picture plane). The undulating membrane would provide a re-enactment of nature (containing multidimensional values). Something akin to the geology over glacial time frames that has determined configurations of landscape. The flat plane generates the human visual experience, a visual metaphor for how we perceive.
Events form and accumulate within the space over a period of time. Then by unfolding and recognising what happened it becomes an extension of ones cognitive ability to understand the geometric conditions and the state of materials that allowed such things to occur.
The discovery of this working practice showed him that he could transform the geometry of the canvas in its un-stretched form to the stretched. Furthermore, he realised that he didn’t just have to solely use the effects of gravity. With varying degrees of manipulation he could apply marks that either control paint flow, allow holes and cuts to be made (Quantum Brushstrokes discussion), or scrapings to form, or whatever action one chooses to apply. The actual membrane itself still underpins the aesthetics of each piece, although the degree of simplicity or complexity can be regulated and enhanced.
The impact of this work from the viewers experience is quite different. The viewer experiences the results of the work as a flat picture plane rather than an accrual of the method used. The aesthetic appreciation comes through the contemplation of each piece – setting in motion a further process of deep reflection or meditation.
For more information contact me or to see my artwork Oxygen Captured in the flesh, please take a visit to the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize finalists’ exhibition at the South Australian Museum from June 8 until August 5, 2018.
Thanks to Jacqueline Mitchell from Art Logic, a rental and sales service supporting local South Australian artists, six paintings have come out of hibernations, and are now hanging in unison at BRI Ferrier’s boardroom (SA) for the next four months.
BRI Ferrier is a unique affiliation of expert business recovery, insolvency, forensic accounting and advisory firms. They provide practical, innovative services that help financially distressed businesses to recover or at least minimise the negative impacts of insolvency. They also support South Australian artists, like myself, through a continual program of art rental rotations that span over ten years.
This exhibition represents a variety of styles and approaches, dating back over ten years to when I first started experimenting with creating events on curves — an art practice I call ‘Membrane Art’. This is my first time exhibiting with BRI Ferrier and I’m happy with the way it has come together.
I’ve just visited a wonderful exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat: Eugene von Guérard and rediscovered a name I’ve long forgotten about, the polymath, Alexander von Humboldt.
Eugene von Guérard like many artist at the time was inspired by Humboldt’s view that art and science is one and the same. This is such a wonderful exhibition of Australia’s colonial past. So glad to have seen it and the rest of the gallery’s impressive collection of Australian iconic art. It’s on until May 27, 2018.
It is the curved nature of the membrane that creates the structural interpretations — and when the work is presented in a flattened 2D form for observation — the trajectory path appears to be different.
The trajectory path (broken line) of the drill hole follows a short and straight path in complete space (unseen).
Flattened phase When the curl is unravelled, the trajectory path (broken line) remains the same as it was above. Yet the path seems longer, goes back in time and appears networked differently when we observe it from this (human) viewpoint.
‘I’m inclined to think that…the 3D world is an illusion. The ultimate precise reality is the 2D reality on the surface of the universe’, Leonard Susskin*
*Source: What is space? 48:30s, 2015 www.youtube.com Note 1: The holes (3 white marks on the membrane surface) should be viewed as the vectors created within the field. They aren’t necessarily the particles themselves but the negative space that’s require for them to exist on the 2D surface.
Note 2: A second phase dimension has been neglected from these diagrams.
The photograph above is of my working notes which appears on the reverse side of my ‘Highly Commended’ art piece, Lithium mesh. Although you will not see this side of it on display at the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize 2016 exhibition – it shows my thoughts and the science of my working method. For more information about the science behind it, see the following blog (Proton brushstrokes) or download the PDF file Quantum brushstrokes
Artist statement of work: Lithium mesh Quarks & leptons are the building blocks of matter — I’ve created a series of events, using curls & waves, that interpret a geometric construct of a particle’s properties. The curved structures create a framework that allows for connections and entangled systems to manifest. Finally the surface is flattened to 2D-form for observation. The viewer experiences the unravelled results — challenging perceptions that things are often not what they appear to be — a tangible expression of how nature at the very small scale may be formed, by complicated structures and events that are concealed from us.
Lithium mesh (detail): A series of quantum brushstrokes.
For the second time running, I’m a finalist in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize 2016. Prize winners will be announced at the South Australian Museum at 10:30am on Thursday 9 June 2016. Whatever happens, I’m thrilled to be part of the exhibition to be held at the South Australian Museum from 10 June – 31 July 2016. For more info: http://www.waterhouse.samuseum.sa.gov.au/
It seems to me that the efficiency of creating this diptych (Carbon 12) is a clue as to why life forms are favoured towards a carbon-based structure. This painting was completed with only 6 drill holes and 3 saw cuts as one entangled expression, yet we can observe — a sea of 72 quarks (holes) and a cloud of 39 electrons (cuts).
About the painting: Created as a series of quantum brushstrokes, it interprets the geometric construct of the respective particles properties, ie, protons, neutrons, electrons. The various curved structures create a framework that allows for connections and entangled systems to manifest. Finally the surface is flattened to the 2D-form for observation. The viewer experiences the unconcealed and simplified results rather than an accrual of the method used – a possible model of how the natural world is formed, even at a tiny scale, by complicated structures and events.
For more see Carbon 12 (network) in the flesh at my latest exhibition:
RiAus, 55 Exchange Place
Adelaide SA 5000
10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
on until 3 June 2016
This is an attempt to express a classical interpretation of how fundamental particles may have evolved. Also it tries to address some of the principle questions about why certain particles and initial conditions have been favourable for life to evolve while others have not.
I must emphasise that this aesthetic interpretation has not been tested or verified in any way, shape or form (it’s a ‘fruitloopery’ interpretation from a fringe dweller). Nevertheless it is an invitation to think about what fundamentally cannot be actually directly observed – a quantum particle (not yet anyhow). Therefore the aim is to provide a platform for a visual dialogue that postulates current particle physicists theories, so that we may then have a tactile understanding of their thinking and subsequent discoveries. Afterall, developing bite-size visual queues is a particularly humanistic quality beneficial for understanding our world and each other. Without that, the practical implications may not be as readily realised.
At the same time, this is an extension into the art practice I call, Membrane Art — that is, how geometric curves provide the framework for events to manifest and evolve, yet the flat picture plan is an agent of how we observe them — necessary to help us analyse and contemplate what has happened.
I trust that with further understandings this aesthetic practice will evolve and be further enhanced in time.
The building blocks of matter are made up of two kinds of brushstroke expressions:
Quark brushstrokes : Quarks are represented by drill holes created on a particular kind of curl (strong interactions) — a quark is a tiny particle which makes up protons and neutrons.
Electron brushstrokes: Electrons (leptons) are represented by saw cuts created on a wavy surface (electromagnetic interactions).
Whichever brushstroke expression is used the similarities to the way a brushstroke mark is made on a flat plane remains the same — there is initial contact, movement across and then an exit off the surface.
Note: The saw cuts and drill holes are vector spaces left behind within the field and not the particles themselves. That eventuates as a consequence of it.
Favourable curled structures The curled membrane represents the geometry of the strong field needed to create the particles that interact with it. The drill holes produced on this curvature structure is similar to the way a brushstroke mark is made on a flat plane – there is initial contact, movement across and then an exit off the surface.
1: This side view of a curled membrane represents how strong interactions are created. One drill hole can express a multiple flavours of quarks. When entry occurs at the point where two convex surfaces are close together and the exited point is a concave structure – a proton is created (two up / one down).
2: If the curl is spun 180° (half spin) then a different set of events occur. When entry occurs at one convex structure and the exit point is at two concave structures that are close together – a neutron is created (two down / one up).
3: Flat view: The aesthetic is realised when the membrane is opened out and the depth is compressed. Nothing disappears, it just changes form. This generates the human visual experience, a metaphor for how we perceive.
Working hypothesis Quarks eventuate out of the six different spacial geometries as shown above (3 proton-style quarks, 3 neutron-style quarks). In practice, however, vector fields that holds the quarks are often malformed at the time of creation. It doesn’t matter that the same drill-bit size was used to cut through all the various curvature constructs, you can expect variations to size to occur. Whether or not this is due to the condition of the tool used, extra debris or other surface conditions allows for a multitude of variations to manifest. Nature is fickle, so if quarks are created in this way then you can expect that given time (billions of years or so) decay or other high entropy processes may then ‘clean up’ the vector spaces to allow for a more full-bodied quark type to evolve and become favourable for atom formation.
Favourable wave structures The wave membrane represents the geometry of the electromagnetic field needed to create the particles that interact with it. The saw cuts on this curvature structure is similar to the way a brushstroke mark is made on a flat plane – there is initial contact, movement across and then an exit off the surface.
1: This side view of a wave membrane represents the electromagnetic field. The geometric relationship creates ‘hidden’ structures for the work.
2: This shows how one expression (a cut made by the circular saw) can appear to be in two places at the same time.
3: Flat view: The aesthetic is realised when the depth is compressed. Nothing disappears – it just changes form. This generates the human visual experience, a metaphor for how we perceive.
Working hypothesis The saw cuts and drill holes are vectors created within the field and don’t necessarily represent the particles themselves. Smaller sedimentary-style matter (strings) may fill the void left behind to create the so-called elementary particle. In practice, for entangled (networks) to occur, electron brushstrokes by default might contain more parts or substructures then the ones we know. For example, the bottom fold which contains no cut, is still a part of the overall structure. It creates the visual connection (distance) between two saw cut expressions when we observe them on the flat plane.
I have not considered the scale differences between leptons and quarks in the development of this work. Curled structures might have eventuated before wave structures. They may simply be a by-product of curled up ones.
Creating atoms (protons, neutrons, electrons)
with second phase dimensions
Favourable particles We can now use both drill holes and saw cuts to create vectors and other interactions on the surface of the membranes. To create entangled (networks) a second phase dimension is hidden within the geometry of the curvature constructs at the time of creation. In practice, this second phase dimension must be large enough so that it can be held in place by the outer dimension at the time of creation — too small, it misses, rolls around inside and remains unconnected.
1: This electron was created with additional hidden structures (phase dimension) to express a ‘cloud of electrons’ that are entangled as one expression as seen on the opened out perspective.
2: Multiple quarks can be created with additional hidden structures (phase dimension) to express a ‘sea of quarks’ that are entangled (networked) as one expression as shown on the opened out perspective.
3: Flat viewpoint – all sorts of expressive combinations can be created with quantum brushstrokes that relate to fundamental particle formations. Yet the flat picture plane is necessary to help us analyse and contemplate what has happened.
If the same size drill-bit and saw blade is used to cut through all phase dimensions then it could be that the hidden dimensions is as large (possibly tighter and more fragile) then the dimensions we know. For entanglement to occur, particles by default must clump together to form stable groups. So when smaller sedimentary-style matter (strings) fill the space left behind they may entangle with all phase dimensions as one expression.
For more see:
RiAus, 55 Exchange Place
Adelaide SA 5000
10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
on until 3 June 2016
This exhibition is an expression of my understanding of quantum physics. I’m attempting to communicate how fundamental particles may have evolved. Quarks & leptons are the building blocks of matter – I’ve created curls & waves that relate to the physical properties found in these particles. The curved structures also create a framework that allows for connections and entangled systems to manifest and evolve that couldn’t happen any other way.
Starts: Monday, 22 March — 3 June 2016
Opening night: 23 March 6—7pm
RiAus FutureSpace Gallery
55 Exchange Place, Adelaide South Australia
Open: Monday — Friday, 9-5pm
I’ve just signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with RiAus (Royal Institution of Australia Inc) for a solo exhibition called Visual Entanglement. This exhibition will be held at the Science Exchange in the FutureSpace Gallery from Monday 21 March to Friday 3 June 2016 (10 weeks).
Recently, many scientific discoveries have been shaping and redefining our understanding of the laws of nature. So, the objective of this exhibition is to make the science of this (quantum mechanics in particular) seem more approachable to everyone. By putting the ‘observer’ (the human aesthetic values) into the framework, I’ll be able to develop a narrative through a series of visual expressions that cannot be described independently, ie, they’ll be entangled.
As science and aesthetics is an integral part of the ethos of MembraneArt, more than any other exhibition I’ve done before, I’m looking forward to working with RiAus to present and fulfil this objective in a meaningful way.
In the example below, three cuts were made to an undulated membrane surface. This was then stretched and mounted to the two dimensional picture plane. So the top three expressions (cuts) were created at the same time as the bottom three. This illustrates how expressions can be in two places at once. A further explanation is given below.
MA#50 (diptych) at my Energy Travels exhibition: Angas Travel, The Parks 10/154 Fullarton Road, Rose Park, South Australia. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, until the end of January 2016.
Membrane Art: An aesthetic thought:
1) Side view of an undulated membrane; The geometry of the membrane creates a ‘hidden’ construct for the development of the work.
2) Top angle view: From this view we can start to see how one expression (in this instance, a cut made by a circular saw) has appeared in two places at the same time.
3) The stretched out view: The aesthetic is realised when the depth is compressed (membrane stretched). Nothing disappears … it just changes form from an undulation to a flatter state. This generates the human visual experience, a metaphor for how we perceive.
Note: Undulations can take any form. They could be fixed or unfixed, angled or straight, shallow or deep, loose or tight, crumpled or smooth. Whatever the undulations, it controls the process of paint flow, cuts and scrapes.
The grid is defined by the geometric form of the membrane at the time paint was poured over the surface. So when we observe the image on the flat 2-dimensional picture plane it appears distorted. Interesting how the low lying parts of the folds have defined the grid edges. This is unseen until it is fully stretched and mounted. For a full explanation see About Membrane Art in the menu.
See MA#49 in the fresh at the Energy Travels exhibition – Angas Travel for the SALA Festival 2015. On until 31 August, 2015.
I’ve recently been attempting to paint the physical phenomenon that is quantum entanglement. I’m trying to achieve this by showing that marks (particles) produced on a ‘membrane’ surface can be in multi-places at the same time. I’m doing this by first folding or undulating the surface in such a way so that I can apply one action to create many marks at once. When they dry, I’ll be opening the membrane up and stretching it to a frame as part of my study into whether I’ll encounter any technical issues.
My aim is to hint at how the science may be understood. Furthermore, by recreating the mechanics at a macro level, it could help to illustrate how things might become entangled in the quantum mechanical system. Because the results are static and displayed retrospectively, it could help our understanding of the theory, including the EPR paradox.
Exhibition(s) to come in due course.
Note: It’s a condition of all my work that I’m partly or completely unsighted to the events created. So we shouldn’t pass judgement on the merits of these ‘works-in-progress’ until they’ve been cropped and fully stretched — in a restful state for observation.
Stories Well Told recently interviewed Malcolm about the RiAus exhibition, Under the Surface.
Stories Well Told (SWT)
Malcolm, a finalist in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize for 2014, has always been interested in science and the internal workings of nature.
In Membrane Art his canvas becomes a metaphor, recreating layered, multifaceted organisms.
His artistic process ends with recreating the way human visualise science.
SWT: How do you examine what’s ‘Under the Surface’?
Malcolm: My objective is to investigate nature. To understand surface and space the challenge has always been to imagine the complexities of our world beyond the limits of our visual abilities. So, by questioning the way we observe, it became apparent to me that a fresh approach was needed to the way we paint. In particular, to decipher the physiology of our world in a way that relates to the multi-dimensional aspects of it. There are more dimensions than the ones that we can obviously see like height, width and depth.
SWT: What fresh approach to painting did you come up with for Membrane Art?
Malcolm: One way to achieve this was to paint on an uneven or undulating surface. This canvas provides a re-enactment of nature and its multi-dimensional values. And then, at a later date, the canvas is flattened, becoming two-dimensional. The human experience is demonstrated by compressing the depth, creating a visual metaphor for how we observe.
SWT: So are you comparing complex science to human observation?
Malcolm: I’m not comparing them, I’m acknowledging them as one and the same. What I’d like people to see is that when a scientist theorises that we live in a multi-verse, it’s not because they’re conveniently trying to hide extra dimensions to make their calculations work, it’s usually because they make their observations facilitated by tools. Through these tools they can make more observations, more precisely than those our basic senses are equipped to handle.
SWT: Are you following this same scientific method in making your art?
Malcolm: Actually, in my art I often undulate the surface so tightly together that I can’t see where and how paint might flow or blend together, so I’ll rely on my other senses of feel and experience to calculate desired events. This is the unseen physiology. Then opening the work and making it as flat as possible shows that the events that occurred when it was in an undulating state haven’t disappeared, it’s just changed form on the surface.
SWT: Where is Membrane Art heading in the future?
Malcolm: I’ve created a new work exclusive to this exhibition, titled MA#47. Rather than just using paint, I’ve taken a circular-saw and made 12 individual cuts on the undulating linen. In this instance I used two undulations, so 12 cuts across the canvas have turned into 24 cuts when flattened. This hints at particle physics, where it’s possible to be in multiple locations at the same time. Its only when we observe the cuts on the flat two-dimensional surface do we realise that there’s a relationship between two particular cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state.
The RiAus exhibition ‘Under the Surface’ is on until 26 September 2014.
Dr Leonora Long, a science writer at Neuroscience Research Australia,recently took an interesting look at my Membrane Art:
As part of the 2014 SALA Festival of South Australian Living Artists, the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery is proud to present Under the Surface. Using different artistic forms and media, Malcolm Koch joins Christopher and Therese Williams in an exploration of what lies beneath the surface of the world around us. This exhibition will run from August to September.
The theme of the 2014 RiAus SALA Exhibition is ‘Under the Surface’. This might bring to mind the earth’s surface – perhaps appropriately, given that one of the exhibited artworks will be Christopher Williams’ soundscape, and Therese Williams’ visual interpretation of that soundscape, captured from the surface of salty, acidic, mostly dry Lake Tyrrell. The work of another SALA artist, Malcolm Koch, is reminiscent of biological entities like membranes and folded organs. Strong contrasts are central to Malcolm’s manifesto of Membrane Art: undulation as a representation of the internal workings of nature and, conversely, the flat plane as a medium for human observation. Let’s take Malcolm’s suggestion to ‘open out the membrane’ and look at the secrets beyond one of biology’s most interesting curled and rippled interfaces, the brain.
The human brain consists of around 86 billion nerve cells, or neurons, and about the same number of non-neuronal cells. Its outer layer, the cortex, is folded into sulci (furrows) and gyri (ridges). These cortical undulations allowed a large surface area to develop in the relatively small space inside the skull. Most of the folding of the cortex occurs in the third trimester of gestation and the first two years of postnatal life, peaking at around age 5 or 6. This rapid increase in folding corresponds with the growth and branching of the ends of neurons, increasing the possibilities for new synapses between neurons to be formed.
MA#47, oil on Belgian linen, 2014. On display at RiAus FutureSpace Gallery until 26 September, 2014. Above: 12 individual cuts of a circular-saw on the undulating (folded) surface, have materialised as 24 cuts when opened out. This hints at particle physics, where it’s possible to be in several locations at the same time. Its only when we observe the cuts on the flat 2D surface do we realise that there’s a relationship between two particular opposite cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state. A metaphor for the way we observe.
Given that the synapse is the basic communication unit of the brain, it makes sense that they need to grow a lot in early life. Think about how different from one another are a newborn, a six-month-old baby, and a two-year-old toddler. Smiling, eating, sitting, sleeping, walking and talking all require a lot of growth and development! Not all animals have the same degree of gyrencephaly, or cortical folding. For example, the mouse cortex is quite smooth. While it also has 1000 times fewer neurons than the human, it seems that the total number of neurons is not the key difference between mouse and human cognition. The surface area of the cortex (increased by all that folding) is increasingly seen as central to the increased cognitive ability in humans.
As we zoom in on individual neurons we can see more examples of the importance of folding and membranes. At this level there are many more similarities between animal species than differences. For example, all neurons are surrounded by a membrane, as are the structures inside the neurons. The membrane is made up of molecules called phospholipids, which arrange themselves in a bilayer, and this structure helps to determine the permeability of the membrane, or what molecules can pass in or out of the cell. This permeability changes depending on the electric charge on the membrane surface, or by a change in shape of one of the proteins that stud the membrane like embedded jewels.
Some proteins act like channels and extend all the way through the membrane, and in response to an outside stimulus, these channels open up and allow a stream of charged particles to pour into the cell. This flow can dramatically change what happens in the cell. It might be the signal for the cell to release a neurotransmitter, or it might switch on a gene that regulates neuron growth.
What might at first glance seem like a static barrier between a cell and its environment is, in reality, constantly moving like long grass in a breeze, with molecules passing through it as part of the cell’s functions. It is the individual nature of the genes, proteins and other molecules in a neuron that give rise to the structural and functional differences between species.
As we zoom in even further we can reveal a world of folded proteins and molecules that conceal even more secrets that determine the way cells function, independently and collaboratively. We will continue to find folds within folds that all play a part in the eventual activity of our brains.
We can’t always see what is happening beneath the surface in real time with our unaided eyes, and so as far as neuroscience is concerned, we may not be able to wrap our brains around the ‘absolute idea’ spoken of by Malcolm Koch, but at least we have built these increasingly objective measurement tools to be our surrogate observers.
By building scientific observations into new knowledge, new hypotheses can be made and tested and results can be interpreted to derive new meanings. In this process, the truth itself doesn’t change. Its nature just becomes clearer to the observer. Perhaps the idea of compressing the depth of an undulated surface into a flat plane is symbolic of science’s aim to grapple with the complexities of the world: not to simplify them, but to aid their experience from many subjective viewpoints.
Malcolm Koch presents 8 Membrane Art paintings (4 new works) and a not to be missed work-in-progress. Plus Christopher and Therese Williams present a collaborative sound and video work, combining Christopher’s soundscape composition with Therese’s real-time video drawings. 1 August – 26 September 2014 Under the surface The Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) The Science Exchange: 55 Exchange Place , Adelaide SA Open: Monday–Friday 10am–5pm RiAus FutureSpace-Gallery
I’m very happy to announce that I was Highly Commended for work MA#41 at this year’s Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. With the high quality of work on display, this is a very satisfying achievement. It does mean that my work will form part of a tour to the National Archives of Australia in Canberra later in the year. The exhibition opens this weekend at the SA Museum:www.bit.ly/1jV37X2
Transcript of my speech made to 70+ guests at the opening cocktail party of Membrane Art exhibitionat the Adelaide Convention Centre (Centre ArtBeat) on 4 June 2014:
So, what preoccupies the perennially tormented mind of the contemporary artist? Quite simply; the language of aesthetic-ideas (aesthetic-thoughts).
But what I want to talk to you about tonight — is how this visual language can be delineated into two parts — absolute and relative ideas. Absolute being what is complete, and relative being something that is dependent upon humans. I particularly want to make this distinction as it relates directly to my art. Art always needs to steer itself away from becoming monotonous, so by defining the merits of ideas itself — or at least by bringing it to your attention — I believe robust, imaginative and independent forms of inquiry may continue to exist. As it is only through the development of absolute-ideas that art has a future that may authentically explore the issues to be debated, the ideas to be contested, and the images yet to be re-imagined.
The mounted works you see on display, are my relative-ideas. Each one has an individual story to tell. The undulating-works-in-progress you see here (below), represent the absolute-idea and is indicative of how every one of my paintings is created. But before I explain this, let me first define, these terms.
RELATIVE: They are relative because they stand in relation to certain conditions or circumstances. They relate to individual human beings. This is what artists execute 99.9% of the time. Pick a topic: Politics; environment; social; religion; sex; make a comment or highlight an issue about it, and hey presto! — you have an exhibition that everyone can relate to.
ABSOLUTE: Absolute-ideas, on the other hand, do not stand in relation to any conditions or circumstances. They prevail at any time or place and under any circumstances. It is a first order thought and can’t be denied or refuted. For example, the idea of Cubism is absolute — show multiple viewpoints on the picture plane. This is a truth that has stood the test of time. So much so, that Cubism has influenced generations of artist, creating a multitude of outcomes with this basic principle.
The objective of absolute-ideas is to provide the artist with a common philosophy or goal, so that he or she, or a collective group, can bring about a sense of purpose and direction. Whatever the means, you either — respond with it, or react against it.
So what makes these undulating membranes absolute?
10 years ago, almost to the month, it hit me. If I could just undulate the surface before I painted on it, I might be able to capture the pervasive features that shape our natural landscape — then at a later date, compress the depth by returning the work to the flat picture plane.
This was a liberating thought, and it quickly became obvious that it was a much larger idea then just about landscape, it was science. However, with no obvious historical art references to show me the way, I continued experimenting on my own, trying various materials and techniques, including sizing my own linen, as well as trying to overcome technical issues. But most importantly, I needed to be able to repeat the idea, in a variety of ways, in order to build a body-of-work that could confirm my assertion — Membrane Art holds the principle view: that the confluence of events in nature and human observation occur as one and the same. DISCUSS: [The undulating membrane is nature. The flat-plane is observation. The membrane creates the basic structure for the work. Through the act of compressing the depth, after applying a series of multiple dimensional values, you begin to reveal a truth about the human experience of observation. Nothing disappears! It just changes its form on the surface].
10 years on, Membrane Art prevails as an absolute aesthetic-idea. It can’t be mistaken as a technique or process, as it is about understanding space and surface in order to build the relative-ideas. It shows us that we are blind to the internal workings of nature. I hope that by displaying these undulating-works-in-progress — and explaining the methodology behind my thinking — you can see much more work can be achieved which has not consciously been recognised anywhere. More importantly, I hope that other artists embrace or challenge the idea, as it is often through the collective group that good ideas gain momentum and flourish for the benefit of all.
Absolute aesthetic-ideas don’t come around very often and given recent scientific discoveries about the laws of nature (like the Higgs Field), Membrane Art could well be the contemporary visual language for our times.
The Hughes Gallery is displaying one of my pieces. I haven’t seen this work for six months and looking at it again on display I still believe its one of my finest. The Hughes Gallery: Fullarton Park Centre, 411 Fullarton Road. 20 March – 17 April 2014. Mon-Fri.
Slight change of dates: The Adelaide Convention Centre (Centre ArtBeat) will be displaying my artwork for approximately 8 weeks. The official opening and cocktail party has changed to Wednesday 4 June, 5 – 6.30pm. Dandelion Vineyards will be supporting the opening. Yummmmm!
5 of my large oil paintings have made their way to Veda – Art & Interiors: This is the collaboration between Tony Bond (AP Bond Art Gallery), Paul Swain, Paul Gerard, Zoe Elvish and Jacqui Hooper. Its a great idea – check it out at 140 Barton Terrace West, North Adelaide 11 – 4pm most days.
I’ve managed to curate ten paintings within the Tidswell Wines cellar door that I think work well together. I’m showcasing 6 new works. Its also very pleasing to place work in an unconventional space and see them still able to work in varying lighting conditions throughout the day.