Category Archives: On display

Recovering ten years of ‘Membrane Art’.

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.

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Chilled-out at 1414 Degrees.

Thanks to Jacqueline Mitchell at Art Logic , a rental (and sales) service supporting local South Australian artists, this painting (MA#5) is hanging in the Chairman’s office at 1414 Degrees for the next six months.

1414 Degrees’ is a thermal-based energy storage system. What makes it unique is that it is clean, scalable, sustainable and therefore unlike any other energy storage system in the world. This breakthrough technology is set to disrupt energy storage globally because it provides energy in the form most used in the world – heat. So, I’m thrilled that they’ve selected my work. Check out their recent prospectus and website: 1414 Degrees

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Visual entanglement

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

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Brick+Mortar exhibition

A sneak preview of my latest exhibition: On until July 26, 2015. Pop in for a coffee and browse. Brick + Mortar, 49 George Street, Norwood (next to the Norwood Town Hall).

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Left: New work MA#49. Right: A work in progress, illustrates how the membrane creates the basic structure before it is flattened onto a two dimensional picture plane.

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From left to right: MA#45, MA#48, MA#11.


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Biological Membranes – Surface, Undulation And Interface

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.

Painting_MA#47_IMGP0007_1_lighter_tw2MA#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.

By Leonora Long (@leonoralong)

Article courtesy of Royal Institution of Australia: RiAus – Australia’s Science Channel

Science meets Art: Nature becomes clearer to the observer when you compress the depth

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Arakaba Hotel exhibition – Diversity

Opening night: Thursday 31 July 2014, 7–9pm. Wine supplied by Chaffey Bros. Wine Co and Dunes & Greene. Canapes will served on the night.

This is a group exhibition (5 artists). I will have 5 paintings on display. Please RSVP

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RiAus exhibition

Recently, my painting MA#41 was highly commended in this year’s prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, an international competition that invites artists to investigate the environment around us and present their own perspective on natural science. It’s an achievement just to be recognised. Likewise, I’m also thrilled to be invited to exhibit in the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery during this year’s SALA festival, where a similar synergy between the arts and science has been occurring. This support of the arts highlights how artists can interpret common themes, issues and thoughts in a multitude of different aesthetic ways that can engage mainstream audiences in science. Hopefully, by humanising scientific pursuits we may together speak a common language for all humanity.


As an artist, I like to say that my art is founded in science. I call my work ‘Membrane Art’ and believe it to be an absolute aesthetic-thought. This is distinct but not separate to the mounted-pieces that are about to go on display in the FutureSpace Gallery, titled Under the Surface. These are the relative-thoughts, the by-products of the absolute-thought which each have their own individual story to tell.

When making a claim that something is ‘absolute’, as is done in science, you need to be able to provide strong, quality evidence to support the theory. For almost 10 years now, since the idea for ‘Membrane Art’ first came to me, I can confidently say that I’ve achieved a body of work and a method of working that can consistently confirm this as so.

It was the 19th-century scientist and philosopher Hermann von Helmholtz who wrote, ‘Everything is an event on the skin’, and these words seems so poignant when you consider the process I employ to produce each piece — quite simply, I undulate the surface before I paint on it, hence the terminology ‘Membrane Art’, as it is the membrane (canvas) that creates the basic structure for the work. Why I paint in this way stems directly from my understanding of nature and the way it appears to be. To understand surface and space, the challenge has always been to imagine the complexities of our world beyond the limits of our visual abilities — you can’t solely rely on the flat 2D surface; it just doesn’t work. So, by questioning the way we see, it became apparent that to understand the presuppositions that shape our world, a new visual language was required.


Undulating the membrane was a liberating thought, and it also allowed me to employ modern thinking in physics and geology for which I have a keen interest. I started by experimenting with various materials and techniques, including sizing my own linen to try to build an innate understanding of it. Since then, I’ve been able to demonstrate that I can repeat the idea of absolute thought, in a variety of ways, and under any conditions and circumstances. And just to prove it, 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 ‘actions’ have turned into 24 cuts. 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 cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state.


At this point, I must emphasise that undulating the surface is not the complete idea of Membrane Art — the work must eventually return to the flat 2D picture plane, a key part of the absolute-thought. This shows us that the undulating membrane provides a re-enactment of nature (containing multi-dimensional values), and the flat plane generates the human experience (by compressing the depth), a visual metaphor for how we may observe. This is further illustrated in the exhibition by a piece I call ‘undulating-work-in-progress’, and is indicative of how all mounted works are created.

Absolute aesthetic-ideas don’t come around very often. Given recent scientific discoveries about the laws of nature (like the Higgs Field), Membrane Art could well be the contemporary visual language of our times.

I trust you’ll enjoy the exhibition. I’d love to hear your feedback!

All works are for sale. Any enquires call me direct on 0419 864 987

Under the Surface will be exhibited in the Futurespace Gallery at The Science Exchange from Friday 1 August 2014 to Friday 26 September 2014. 

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