Art, microscopes and food spices
In the latest edition of Leeds Creative Labs, members of the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy (LEMAS) centre were paired with a local creative to combine science with art.
Leeds Creative Labs pairs artists with researchers to “explore, innovate and take risks”. The most recent edition brought together creative professionals and Bragg Centre for Materials Research members, beginning 14 November 2019 and culminating in a showcase event on 30 January 2020.
One of the 10 projects was a collaboration with members of the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy (LEMAS) centre and the visual artist Lawrence Molloy.
One of the researchers involved, Dr Nicole Hondow, explained: “The Creative Labs: Bragg Edition was focused on introducing an academic group to a creative person/group, with discussions but not an expectation of any artwork produced.”
Lawrence invited his LEMAS collaborators to visit his studio, where they discussed his work process and ideas for the project. It was when they were sharing an excellent home-cooked Indian meal at Lawrence’s studio that they struck on an idea. The aromatic spices in the food tasted delicious and it would be fascinating to use the University of Leeds’ electron microscopes to investigate how the spices looked at the nano scale.
Using the scanning electron microscope we could look at the surface of the spices at high magnification
Nicole said: “We looked at cinnamon, fennel, poppy seeds, saffron, star anise, sumac, turmeric and ground bay leaves. Using the scanning electron microscope we could look at the surface of the spices at high magnification, for example seeing the shape and surface features of poppy seeds and saffron.
“It was a great experience. While we often have visitors and tours through our microscopy labs, Lawrence spent three days with us which really have us an opportunity to not only talk about our research, but also look at specimens using different microscopes.”
Lawrence took the findings and produced an artwork, which was showcased on 30 January as part of this year’s Leeds Creative Labs project.
Nicole added: “It was great to spend a good amount of time with someone trying to find the ways to appropriately explain what we do, how we interpret the results, and the impact it has.
“We are looking for applying for further funding.”
Find out more about the Leeds Creative Labs project here.