Sixty Days of Goodbye Poems of Ophelia: investigations with bacteria and colour

Pigmented bacteria converted into a glass-like film for projection and stained-glass.

Pigmented bacteria converted into a glass-like film for projection and stained-glass.

The first use of a chromogen in bacterial art

The first use of a chromogen in bacterial art

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

Bacterial pointillism

Bacterial pointillism

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

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Serratia marcescens and Bacillus mycoides. An antagonistic red, paint

Serratia marcescens and Bacillus mycoides. An antagonistic red, paint

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

Droplets of Bacillus mycoides, with outgrowth.

Droplets of Bacillus mycoides, with outgrowth.

An early Ophelia

An early Ophelia

Bacterial pointillism, Ophelia

Bacterial pointillism, Ophelia

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Various

Various

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels. Also we developed a mirror-like black agar.

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels. Also we developed a mirror-like black agar.

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The living palette of pigmented bacteria

The living palette of pigmented bacteria

An early bacterial Ophelia

An early bacterial Ophelia

Pigmented bacteria converted into a glass-like film for projection and stained-glass.

Pigmented bacteria converted into a glass-like film for projection and stained-glass.

An early bacterial Ophelia

An early bacterial Ophelia

An early bacterial Ophelia

An early bacterial Ophelia

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

Bacterial pointillism

Bacterial pointillism

A very old and dying bacterial Ophelia.

A very old and dying bacterial Ophelia.

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

Bacillus mycoides and food colours

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

The use of encapsulated bacteria to generate living colours/living pixels

In 2006 artist, JoWonder and myself were awarded a grant from the Wellcome Trust to make an interpretation of John Millias’s painting Ophelia. We were not the first to paint with bacteria, and in fact Alexander Fleming was one of the first to explore the use of naturally pigmented bacteria in art,  by creating his “germ paintings”. Our project was though the most in depth (and still is) investigation into bacteria and colour, and along the way Jo and I developed, much accidental beauty in our test runs, and in our invention of many new procesess. These include a unique and consistent palette of living bacterial bacterial colours, ways to make glass-like films from coloured bacteria, the use of chromogens in bacterial art, and methods to encapsulate bacteria so that they might form living and coloured pixels. As a new generation of artists becomes interested in bacteria and colour, I hope that our ground-breaking work is not forgotten and that our processes can be adopted and taken up to explore this wonderful aspect of microbiology.

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