Inspirer – Rob Kesseler

Words: Abi Goodman

Rob Kesseler works in the boundary where Fine Art, Design and Science overlap.

“To work in other people’s territories is a real privilege. You have to work at it.” Even though Rob is from an arts background he says that he now speaks more to science audiences then to art and design ones.

He creates works directly from nature either drawing and painting specimens or creating large scale high resolution images of seeds, seed dispersal mechanisms and cell structures.

“I look a lot. Concentrated looking is like concentrated listening – you get to see more.”

Rob got his first telescope when he was 12 and he has been hooked every since. You may well be familiar with Rob’s imagery from the books he has created for Kew Gardens with Madeline Harley (Pollen, Seeds, Fruit) and through the exhibition of his works through the Wellcome Trust. So far the books he has produced have sold 150,000 copies in 8 languages. He uses technology in the lab to explore what you can’t see with the naked eye. It takes 600 images in different depths of field to make up one 4m x 4m image of a specimen that is merely milimetres across. He refers to his work as akin to ‘reconstructive surgery’.

Rob talked about the different processes he has used from the pen & ink drawings (where he washes off the ink) to screenprinting, acid-etching, learning to work in glass and constructing images from views of magnified specimens.

He gave examples of different commissions he has worked on including: a Whisky Distillery (where he revealed the science behind the fermentation process); and producing work for mosaic tiles for the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Portugal.

His advice to those interested in arts/science crossover projects was as follows:

“You’ve got science labs in the university. I would suggest you go and knock on their door.”

Students undertaking the Unit X Option 1 project ‘Spectrum’ have done just that! They are now building towards a final exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery this month – we’ll keep you posted!

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