Category Archives: What is Membrane Art

Undulating membrane, Malcolm Koch, undulate the surface and paint, a process of time and events, colour and texture, color and texture, South Australian landscape, South Australian geology, physics, undulating membrane provides a re-enactment of nature, flat plane generates cognitive processing, a visual metaphor for how we observe

The Quantum Wall

The following is an attempt to express an aesthetic interpretation of how fundamental particles may have evolved.

In 2004, I began experimenting with the idea that I could open up surfaces and spaces to countless more perceptual possibilities by painting on a curve rather than on a flat 2D plane. The events created on the curved surface would re-enact the ‘completeness’ of our natural world (particularly at the atomic scale), and when the results are unraveled and revealed on the 2D picture plane it might generate the human visual experience, thus being a metaphor for how we observe.

Since, this approach has enabled me to evolve and develop a body of work that I refer to as Membrane Art. The key influence and structural basis of my art practice.

Proton brushstroke: from curvature to flat

Proton_Quantum_brushstroke_Malcolm-Koch_2016_2I’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
Note: A second phase dimension has been neglected from this diagram. Download the PDF file Quantum brushstrokes for more.

Quantum brushstrokes are real

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.

_ _

Building brushstrokes (Quantum brushstrokes)

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.

Quark brushstroke


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.

Strong interactions
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.

Electron brushstroke


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.

Electro/magnetic interactions
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.

Working hypothesis
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:
Visual entanglement
FutureSpace Gallery
RiAus, 55 Exchange Place
Adelaide SA 5000
10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
on until 3 June 2016

Being in two places at the same time.

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.

Malcolm Koch_MA#50_diptych_IMG_1260
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.

Picasso is an integral part of Membrane Art

Barry Schwabsky recently wrote: “Picasso, though he is still the popular byword for ‘famous artist,’ has been sidelined.” .

That maybe so but its certainly not the case for my work and Membrane Art. As it is the cubist principal of showing ‘multiple viewpoints’ on the picture plane that underpins Membrane Art. Take a look around this website and you’ll see why and more importantly how I’m trying to extend it. Membrane Art_150617

‘Under the Surface’ exhibition

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.



Manifesto (Opening speech)

Transcript of my speech made to 70+ guests at the opening cocktail party of Membrane Art exhibition at 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 membrane surface

By understanding that a surface interconnects and defines space, provides the means to create a vocabulary that can be found in our physical world. This vocabulary may repeat itself but its in the way that you perceive it and how you go about putting it together that provides endless differences.

Membrane Art talk

I’ve been asked to do a one hour talk about my work. I’ll most likely talk for 10–15 minutes and then follow up with a short presentation. I’m hoping that there will be a lot of questions to fill up the rest of the time. If not, I’ll read some selected essay’s from Art Critics’ collected over many years to the present day that I believe validate my thinking. The artist talk is at Pepper Street Arts Centre on 1 February 2014, Saturday 3pm – 4pm.