Stephanie Valentin - fathom

Exhibition: 13 October to 13 November, 2004

Stephanie Valentin

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Stephanie Valentin's fascination as an artist is with the dynamic and shifting relationship between the forces of nature and culture. Throughout her career she has shown an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life-forms and for the intricacy and diversity of the natural world. In her new series, fathom Valentin continues her interest in biotechnology within the landscape, exploring the idea of microorganism as artefact.

In her previous series pollinate (2002) she employed an electron microscope technique to etch words and marks onto the surface of microscopic plant pollen before photographing it. This time her terrain is the marine - its plants, plankton and micro-organisms. For this work she has collected plankton from ocean waters around Sydney and isolated chosen specimens, many of them single celled organisms. In some cases she has then physically 'carved' and altered (by charged atomic particles), the microorganism's surface using a Focused Ion Beam microscope at the University of New South Wale's Electron Microscope Unit.

The word "fathom" has a dual meaning that alludes to some of the aspects of Valentin's investigation. It is an ancient unit of marine measurement. It also means "to understand". Through her experimental applications of new electron microscope technology Valentin evokes the human desire to touch, shape and utilise the natural world. These are not didactic works rather they poeticise the ecological and cultural implications of scientific endeavours. fathom also features a suite of photograms depicting various marine specimens, larger than life and floating in an inky darkness. As an almost primitive form of microscope imaging, these photogram magnifications are suggestive of an underlying spectrum: of fluidity, symbiosis and macrocosm.