Apoptosis, the programmed suicide of a cell. This is one of these images that will never be seen through a microscope. It is created from what we know the process of apoptosis entails. I particularly enjoy drawing and painting leaky mitochondria, discolored and deflated. After doing so many hundreds if not thousands of rounded, turgent, bright mitochondria, it is almost a relief to do a sickly, pathetic one. The disintegration of the nucleus and the glorious blebbing of the cytoplasm are the protagonists here.
This image shows a spinach leaf, with curly mitochondria and textbook chloroplasts. It is a happy image. It somehow shows a bit of the sun that is being harvested to create energy and life. It has great spring colours and very good fun is somehow inserted into the playful internal membranes of the mitochondria. I have only ever made two, and they are now hanging in the two extremes of Europe, in happy places with darkish winters. This is an image that I would want to hang in a thinking place, it puts me in a calm and optimistic frame of mind.
This is the mother of all ova. My very first about-to-be released (in ovulation) ovum. This is a theme that I have re-visited repeatedly, always inside the ovarian tissue. The colours, and the shapes and the sizes vary considerably, and I see those changes as a way to express the very different destinies of the ova, the enormous potential for variation trapped in very similar cells. The many alternative futures are reflected in each of them: will it be fertilized? Will it be implanted or be expelled? Will a good sperm get to it in time? Will it be a girl? Will it become twins? Will it suffer teratogenesis because of a rare side effect of a wandering drug? And what will the sperm do to it?
This work is one of a very few non-human tissues that I have created. Flight muscle is the most powerful type of muscle, to cope with the aerobic demands of flying the balance of muscle fibres and mitochondria has to be optimal. Here we see flight muscle from a bird in a transverse cut
Soupers versus venters. I am in the venters camp, therefore I don’t draw warm prehistoric seas and call them origin of life pictures. This is an ideal representation of a hydrothermal vent with more complex and sophisticated structures distributed on the periphery; upwards and outwards. Initially done for a cover of a scientific journal, eventually a different image was chosen (little fleas inside other fleas…)
I have done several versions of the apoptotic cell. This one almost killed me. Don’t frame large pictures with glass and hang them over a bed. They do look lovely, but the nail may fail in the middle of the night. An apoptotic cell is a restless cell. It may have moved, or it may have been me moving.
This work was produced during my algae phase, spring 2011. It was a bit of a bloom, and it has never come back. Algae are not that popular among my medical and mitochondrial focused fans, but they have a floating magic of their own.
The original mitochondria in action is now stuck to the wall in University Colleague London. It works very well in ties, and there are currently three in the whole world. They are extremely loud, but surprisingly, mitochondrial scientists, not normally known for bright ties, do like them a lot.
This is one of the images belonging to a series of historical mitochondrial works. I find the early biologists and microscope pioneers views, descriptions, drawings and photos extremely charming. I pride myself on the fact that my art is informed, as far as I can manage, on the current state of knowledge of its subjects. Some of these pioneers knew what they were looking at, others didn’t or were profoundly mistaken. Still, their images and descriptions speak volumes, and I pay homage to them in this series.
Altmann’s bioblasts are a favourite of mine. I have re-interpreted them in colours, with light boxes, in black and white, silver and gold… It is such a simple and organic looking image and lends itself to a myriad of ways to be presented. Bioblast was the first name used to describe mitochondria, and what a name it is!