The Intersection of Art and Chemistry

Last year I came across a link on Twitter regarding an art installation by Roger Hiorns in England titled “Seizure.” Some of you may have seen it too – a condemned flat in London was essentially sealed off and filled with more than 75,000 L of supersaturated copper sulfate solution. Over time copper sulfate crystalized on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the flat and then the solution was let out. What was left was a wonderful and beautiful representation of something us chemists have done in Erlenmeyer flasks many times.

Here are two links. The first link shows the introduction of copper sulfate crystallization process in the building. The second link is a short documentary featuring Roger Hiorns as his art work was moved to a new installation at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

I think we sometimes forget the beauty and novelty of chemistry and life around us as we get so caught up in teaching concepts or simply working to find a solution to a problem. I invite you to take a look at the links above and marvel at what is offered by the art.

Speaking of art in chemistry, I am reminded of two other instances where the two fields intersect. First, I learned at the ACS conference last year in Indianapolis (High School Day) that a collaboration with Professor Dan Gurnon at DePauw University, “artist Julian Voss-Andreae, DePauw art professor Jacob Stanley, and Klaus Schulten's lab at the Beckman Institute, resulted in a large-scale steel protein sculpture now permanently installed in the Julian Science Building [at DePauw University].” I remember speaking with Professor Gurnon and recall his excitement and enthusiasm for this project. Here is the link for the work:

Secondly, while a graduate student at Indiana University I attended a seminar by K.C. Nicolaou. If you have seen Nicolaou’s work, then you are familiar with his enthusiasm with respect to the novelty and art of organic synthesis. If I remember correctly, it was “Molecules That Changed the World” by K.C. Nicolaou and Tamsyn Montagnon that was checked out frequently at the IU Chemistry Library soon after the seminar. I think I managed to look through it once!

How do you see chemistry and art colliding?