Art that captures the beauty of nature

By Winnie Poon Wing-yan, Year 2 BAS (Major in New media) School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

The interdisciplinary programme at CityU lets students combine science, art and technology with spectacular results

By Winnie Poon Wing-yan, Year 2 BAS (Major in New media) School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong |

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This Venus fly trap reminds us that nature can be both brutal and beautiful.

Despite being an art student, my curriculum at CityU allows me to explore other disciplines. This year, I took a course called “Introduction to the Sciences for Artists” which is for students majoring in new media art.

Every group was asked to create a new media artwork that also incorporated something science-related.

New media artworks are mostly created using new media technology, including digital art, interactive art and biotechnology. It creates a new perspective to express our point of view.

Our group decided to explore the topic of food, energy and digestion. The idea cropped up while we were having lunch one day. What happens inside our stomachs while we eat or digest food? How does the texture of our food change? We liked this idea because it relates to everyday life.

With the help of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) at CityU’s Gateway Education Laboratory – which gives students access to high-tech equipment – , our group was able to create very high-quality images.

The SEM produces a focused beam of high-energy electrons to generate a variety of signals on the surface of a solid sample and reveal information like texture, chemical composition, crystalline structure and orientation of materials to create a digital image which can be enlarged up to 60,000 times.

The aim was to capture the beauty of nature, even when it at first seems brutal or unpleasant.

Our experiment looked at how grasshoppers and ants were consumed by carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap and nepenthes. We found the topic interesting because nature itself is an artwork.

The original plan was to use the human body and red meat as experimental subjects, but we wanted to first test the theory on insects and carnivorous plants.

After the experiment and data collection, we published our findings online using a computer programme called Processing. We created an interactive interface showing the differences in insects before and after being eaten by the carnivorous plant.

We encountered some difficulties in the experiment, like losing parts of the sample when we removed them from the plants, or missing the best time to takeout the sample as the digestion process had already finished by the time we took action.

But overall, the results were both fascinating and beautiful. Thanks to CityU’s encouragement of interdisciplinary learning, I was able to have this experience. I was able to explore a new form of art and gain valuable scientific insight.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge