By Danielle Kalamaras
A quick glimpse of Bojana Gligorijevic’s art unfolds its abstract nature as expressive brushwork and saturated forms of color energize the composition. Beyond the works formal qualities, a scientific agenda exists in the mixed-media works. Gligorijevic is a trained scientist who received her PhD from Georgetown University and now instructs courses in the Department of Systems and Computational Biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The visceral energy of biomorphic forms seen in the work are more than expressive gestures of the artists hands, but are inspired by the millions of living creatures in the Pacific Ocean—specifically the glowing octocoral species Dendronephthya. This species of soft corals emit a different colored light depending on the amount of ultraviolet rays reflecting in the water—hence the breathtaking hues found in her art. As if plunging into a watery abyss, Gligorijevic demystifies the depths of the ocean by capturing the saturated hues naturally emitting from these aquatic creatures.
Read on for an interview with the artist that expounds on her scientific inspirations, what she thinks is so "Un-Natural" about nature today, and what "SciArt" means in regards to her work.
DK: What most inspires you about the natural--and artificial--world?
BG: In order to explain nature, science creates somewhat simplified models of observed phenomena in order to predict nature's next step. In the non-living world of physics and engineering, once made, the predictions are valid forever.
In biology, due to the complexity of the system, nature often escapes the perfection. In human body, each cell's behavior is unique in space and time as it is continuously modified by different levels of hormones and interactions with other cells or bacteria inside the body. In addition, a number of materials may enter via breathing, food intake or absorption through skin and change cell's destiny.
I play with perfect geometrical shapes, projecting them onto cells in the living tissue or guiding cells to mimic geometry as they move. Biology humors such attempts and escapes the simplicity of lines. It is more playful and curious than efficient and ordered.
What is so 'Un-Natural' about nature today?
We (contemporary society) also try to simplify and predict ourselves. We believe that endlessly using the same, perfect formula will save us time. We all eat the same type of apples, wear the same shoes, live in similar buildings and ingest the same daily information. Such an approach is reducing diversity of ideas we can come up with. So far, that is obvious in culture. There seems to be a drop in playfulness, individuality and willingness to search for anything in dark, unexplored spaces. We are standing too close together.
What does "SciArt" mean to you?
SciArt is art informed by science as well as science that exposes its creative underpinning.
Science and technology have changed the daily human life so much that the concepts from ecology, engineering, evolution, nutrition have entered common language. It is almost unavoidable to know about genetic modifications, cancer, nuclear power, fossil fuel, computer processing, Hubble telescope, gluten, carbon or plastic polymers. As the knowledge grows, one becomes primed in recognizing harmony, depth and beauty in subjects previously not interesting, not detectable or not existing.
In my own process, I use colonies of cells from humans which carry different diseases. I modify these cells using molecular engineering to glow in the dark and observe them using fluorescent laser microscopes. Just like a street photographer, I look for a charged moment and create composition. Then I snap microphotographs or microvideos which serve as preliminary data to design further study. Layer upon layer, rational experiment design and intuition intertwine. I end with gigabytes of images which are first used as drug response data, using scientific algorithms for quantitative image processing. Some of the images are then chosen to be processed by Photoshop and formulated as pieces of art.
Visit the artist's website to learn more about her artwork.
Click here to view the online exhibition Un-Natural Nature which features the artwork of 30 SciArt Center Members.