Researchers and artists create ‘chem-art’ exhibition at Herbert Art gallery

Researchers and artists from the University of Warwick have teamed up with film makers and musicians from Coventry to create a unique exhibition that will give visitors a glimpse into a rarely seen micro-world.

The unique free public event, Into the Micronosphere, will be hosted by the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry on 25 April 2017 and runs from 12.30 – 13.30.

Professor of Chemistry, Patrick Unwin and his team of researchers use state-of-the-art microscopes and instruments to assist their research into a wide variety pf processes, ranging from the functioning of living cells, to the corrosion of steel and the growth and dissolution of crystals, that might be drugs to treat medical conditions or unwanted stones formed in the body. The images they produce, as well as contributing to the frontiers of research, reveal the innards of a strange and beautiful micro-world, hidden from ordinary sight.

Researchers, students and staff at the University of Warwick have been working with Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Mary Courtney to uncover beautiful and beguiling images that are revealed when chemicals are studied under the microscope. These images take on new meaning as, ‘chem-art’.

The event offers a chance to meet Mary and Patrick for a journey “into the micronosphere” and to discover how artists and chemists react and create in the laboratory.

At the event, a short film created by Coventry born film maker Laurence Campbell will be launched, Planet Biscuit: Into the Micronosphere that fuses ‘chem-art’ with ‘space rock’.

The title “Planet Biscuit: Into the Micronosphere” comes from a response by a member of the public to the image of dust on a diamond when studied under the microscope, by University of Warwick PhD Chemist Faduma Maddar, who has grown up in Coventry.

Mary said, “The dust on the diamond looks like a planet when you get to within microns (a millionth of a metre). It also looks like a macaroon! Hence the Planet Biscuit part of the title. Micronosphere is a word we’ve invented, it comes from combining the words micron and sphere. It sounds like it suggests travel to a strange, mysterious out of the world place. As the research images in the film are microscopic images and nanoscopic images we believe the word also reflects this world.”

"This collaboration has been born out of my research, I am looking into new approaches, combining optical imaging, microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to provide further in depth understanding and in turn assist in enhancement of drug development and formulation.” Said Faduma.

Patrick added: “Researchers in Chemistry at Warwick are producing fabulous images every day. Only a small fraction of these are published in journals and books, and the others rarely see the light of day. We have selected images from a vast archive for ’Micronosphere’ based on their beauty and weirdness."

The film features interviews with people from Coventry documenting a rich range of reactions to chemistry as an art form. The city has sculpted the exhibition further with original music providing the soundtrack to the film, created by Coventry musicians, Zendad, who create Space Rock for the 21st Century, and beyond.

Researchers from the University of Warwick’s Chemistry department use their skills to analyse materials with life changing applications. Their work helps to improve the composition of drugs, improve fungicides, enhance drug development, provide new improved catalysts and provides a deeper understanding of the world around us. Current research projects also have benefits in everyday applications such as better toothpastes.

Into the Micronosphere, is a free public event taking place at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry on 25 April 2017 and runs from 12.30 – 13.30. Booking is not required.