His tools are scalpels and petri dishes, his inspiration… microbes. By cutting and slicing paper into delicate yet strange bacteria-shaped sculptures, Anglo-Irish artist Rogan Brown, has figured out a way to fuse art with science in his latest series entitled “Outbreak”.
Through careful observation of nature and drawing on inspiration from scientist-artists like Ernst Haeckel, scientific renderings and model making, the 42-year-old has re-imagined the natural state of microbes, cells, pathogens and neurons into palm-sized paper sculptures.
Brown says: “My objective was to create a piece that showcases the beauty of the bacterial world in order to modify our negative perception of bacteria, as the overwhelming majority of the microbes that inhabit us are beneficial.”
The catalyst for his collection of eight petri dishes housing paper “microbes” was a seminar Brown attended concerning bacterial building blocks of the human body – the Human Biome project. The bacterial theme was so infectious (pun intended) that this teacher/designer/artist decided to observe nature on a more miniscule level.
In the wild forests of southern France, a place he now calls home, Brown collected leaves and feathers from underfoot and placed them under a microscope.
What he found, were moving images of things “sublimely beautiful but quite frightening”.
With these images in mind, Brown then etched detailed “scientific” preparatory drawings that served as a guide when he began the painstaking process of hand cutting every minute detail and curve of each unique sculpture from his preferred medium: paper.
“I have chosen paper as a medium because it captures perfectly that mixture of delicacy and durability that for me characterizes the natural world,” he says.
“Outbreak” was not Brown’s first foray into the world of precision paper cutting, however. His art from under the microscope had previously yielded intricately cut spores, seedpods and the process of growth.
With “Outbreak”, this jack-of-all-trades hoped to render “an imagined representation of the human body at its smallest scale” with each piece representing a unique pattern or motif found in nature.
“I want to communicate my fascination with the immense complexity and intricacy of natural forms,” he says. “Everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, estranged and in some way transformed.”
The result is “Outbreak”, a still life of microbe-like forms spilling out of their petri dishes and outreaching their tentacled arms to infect their neighbours.
Their path is indiscernible: nothing and no one are safe, not even the artist.
Yet, in the fear that underlies any outbreak hysteria, Brown discovered an extravagant sort of beauty, rendering this paper plague a little less malignant.
For more information on Rogan Brown and “Outbreak”, please visit: http://roganbrown.com/home.html