The Petri Dish Art of Klari Reis
|April 15, 2010||Posted by Philip under Interview|
It is possible that leaving an agar plate laying around the lab for a month could produce something akin to art. Or, microbes can be deliberately arranged on a nutrient surface to produce interesting images a la Nial Hamilton. Then again, when it comes to Petri dish art, there is no reason why any living organisms need be included at all, or even real Petri dishes for that matter.
Meet Artist Klari Reis
Artist Klari Reis has created a series of biology-inspired works that invoke the beauty and endless variety of microorganisms, without any naturally-occurring materials. Who is Klari Reis?
Klari Reis received her M.A. in painting from the City and Guilds of London Art School in 2004. She is currently painting in her native Northern California where the presence of many of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies and research institutions serves as her muse.
Klari Reis is an artist, not a scientist, and was trained as an architectural draftsman and designer. She has a penchant for clean forms and grids, geometric organization, the ‘containing line’ and finely-wrought surfaces. She considers it an advantage that she is not a classically trained painter who might be too invested in traditional themes or media.
A Petri Dish For Every Day of the Year
Klari’s latest project is a collection of 365 “Petri dishes”–one for each day of the year. All the artwork is created from an epoxy polymer; there are no actual cultures used in the art. The plastic is dyed with pure pigments and dyes and sometimes both water-based and oil based paints.
Although the series does have a correlation with the days of the year, she did not produce one per day. “No,” she explains, “unfortunately, I worked on a few almost everyday for a year. I then picked my favorites for each day of the year.”
Some of them look like they were intentionally designed to look like fungi. Sometimes this was intentional, other times, it’s just the way it turned out. That’s how art works.
“I occasionally try to make a Petri dish painting look exactly like an image I have been inspired by. However, I usually like to work just from memory and do my best to recall the natural formations seen and the way the shapes and reactions made me feel.”
Biology Inspires Art
Reis is known for her biological inspiration. She previously produced a series of one hundred images based on drugs. Microbially inspired works seem like a natural follow on to that. When asked about it, Reis seemed to agree.
“My work for the past six years has revolved around cellular imagery and natural formations. Evolving into working with Petri dishes seemed like a logical next step to emphasis the overall theme in my artwork. I have been creating groupings of small Petri dish paintings for two years now. However, I am always working on large scale paintings at the same time. I am currently manufacturing large scale Petri dishes with a 45-inch diameter to create larger scale works with the same depth as their smaller counterparts.”
Reis uses brightly colored dyes to emphasize the different elements of an actual living culture. The results can be strikingly similar to real colonies on a plate.
She studied organism growing in Petri dishes at Kings College in London and at St. Thomas’ Hospital, before starting the project. More recently she also did research for her art at two different South San Francisco Biotech firms. ”I also own my own microscope and do my own small experiments at home,” she adds.
I asked Klari to explain a little more about her relationship with these biotech companies that she had cooperation from. “At all locations I looked at everything I could get my hands on under the microscope. At first, focusing on cellular reactions to pharmaceuticals. These days I am inspired by naturally occurring patterns and formations in our bodies, and elsewhere.”
You can learn more about the inspiration for Kkari’s work at her website klariart.com. Her Petri dish installations are on display in a number of art collections around the world, including those of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi, the Keck Graduate Institute in California, and the MEG Center in Oxford England. Three hundred Petri paintings are on public display at the Peninsula Shanghai Hotel and, if you are ever on a Royal Caribbean cruise, be sure to check out the 1,500 Petri paintings that are featured in a large installation aboard the ship Oasis of the Seas.