Interview with Cris Orfescu: Surveying the New Trends in NanoArt

(This interview is a continuation of Interview with Suresh Donthu, Joel Henzie, and Cris Orfescu: Science As Art.)

Cris Orfescu Nano Fireball
Nano Fireball, Digital Painting & Manipulation of SEM Scan of Nanosculpture
Created by Hydrolizing Titanium Organometallic Compound
Courtesy of Cris Orfescu


ArtStyle: Why did you decide to curate the First International NanoArt Festival in Finland this year?

Cris Orfescu (CO): Last year I founded a NanoArt organization (www.nanoart21.org) to promote this new artistic discipline. On this site I organized The 1st International Online Competition NanoArt 2006. Twenty-two artists/scientists from all over the world participated with 71 works. I called for a public vote to get feedback, and I can tell you, there was some tough competition and quite a bit of traffic out there.

About a year ago, the gallery Kotkan Valokuvakeskus in Finland approached me for a solo show. Considering the NanoArt 2006 success, I thought it was the right time to move the show to a brick-and-mortar gallery, and I decided to share the gallery space. I invited all of the participating artists from the online contest to show their work in Finland. The gallery director, Timo Mahonen, was very interested in showing cutting-edge art and that’s how the festival was born.

Cris Orfescu Stretching the Limits 2
Stretching the Limits 2, Digital Painting of SEM Scan of Nanosculpture
Created by Casting Polymers on Glass

Courtesy of Cris Orfescu

ArtStyle: Who are the participating artists?

CO: This event is, as far as I know, the first ever to bring so many NanoArtists together in a brick-and-mortar gallery. Fifteen artists from four different countries will exhibit their works (all U.S. except where noted): Lisa Black, K. Elise Cohen, Carol Cooper (Canada), Bjoern Daempfling (Germany), Ursula Freer, Dolores Glover Kaufman, Jan Kirstein, Darcy Lewis, Fred Marinello, Chris Marshall (Australia), Abigail Kurtz Migala, Gregory O’Toole, Cris Orfescu, Chris Robinson, and A. John Valois.

Bjoem Daempfling Cthulhu
Ctulhu, Digital “Painting with Filters”
Courtesy of Bjoern Daempfling

ArtStyle: What is NanoArt?

CO: NanoArt is a new art discipline translated by imaging the natural or man-made micro- or nanostructures (nano means 1 billionth of a meter in atomic scale), and the micro- or nanosculptures created by artists or scientists using different chemical or physical processes. Research analytical tools like Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) and Atomic Force Microscopes are used to visualize these “invisible” structures or sculptures at the molecular level.

Carol Cooper Nano Poolette
Nano Poolette, Digital Abstract Painting
Courtesy of Carol Cooper

ArtStyle: What processes do the artists use?

CO: NanoArt is a complex artistic process which involves several creative steps: (1) nanosculpture at the molecular level by combining different chemicals or by physical deposition of very thin layers of different materials to obtain a structure; (2) structure visualization, which involves the SEM and a computer to capture the scans; (3) image processing done with a computer by painting and digitally manipulating the image; and (4) artwork printing (digitally) on canvas or fine art paper. Of course, the last two steps are the artist's choice; video and interactive art, big-scale sculpture, painting, collage or other techniques could be used as the final artistic output to resemble the nanosculptures.

Chris Marshall Nano-Cyclops 5
Nano-Cyclops 5, Digital Drawing Plus SEM Manipulation of Nano Image
Courtesy of Chris Marshall

ArtStyle: Would you consider this show to be science depicted as art or purely art illustrating science?

CO: This show represents the metamorphosis of science transforming into art using technology. Starting with chemical or physical processes the artists morph the scientific images to create artworks to be showcased for the general public. Although the scientific information is mostly lost in the process, NanoArtists are doing a good job of raising people's awareness regarding the new technologies. A few years ago, when I first exhibited my work, I was pleased to see how receptive and interested my audience was, not only other artists but the public in general.

Chris Robertson Untitled (Cool Spot).
Untitled (Cool Spot), SEM Image of Light Scattered by Gold Nanorods
Courtesy of Chris Robertson

ArtStyle: What is the trend in NanoArt?

CO: More and more artists are moving towards new technologies (NanoArt digitization) although most of the artists are still working traditionally. The new technologies offer the artists added flexibility and power to express their thoughts and feelings in a timely manner. We are always short on time, and these technologies are real time savers and, at the same time, offer unlimited opportunities for creativity.

The NanoArt movement is spreading rapidly all over the world. I was very happy when a couple of months ago I was approached by email by Serge Ntamak, an artist from Cameroon, who was very thankful that I had opened up a new direction in art for him. He is a sculptor and, at this time, he is working on big-scale sculptures to resemble some of my nanosculptures. Also, he plans to create, together with other artists, an African NanoArt group.

Darcy Lewis Nebula of Man
Nebula of Man, Digital Painting Mixed with Nano Images
Courtesy of Darcy Lewis

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