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Sea Change



Conceived, initiated and led by the artist, this AHRC-funded Art & Science project hinged on a residency at the Natural History Museum, London (May - Dec 2007) and collaboration with Andrew Parker, the Museum's world-leading expert on animal vision and colouration - in particular iridescence.


In conjunction with the renowned scientist (who acted as a consultant), Schenk continued to investigate the complex and varied mechanisms associated with iridescence in a range of animal groups. The aim being to further convert the novel and challenging iridescent "pigments", first employed in 'Mantle of Many Colours', to the painter's palette.


As the title 'Sea Change' suggests, the intention had originally been to further pursue the marine theme. However, as the project progressed the artist became increasingly captivated by butterflies - whose transient iridescent displays she set out to simulate in paint. Although modest in scale, the hyperreal renderings of butterfly wings that resulted do fully emulate the specimens' fluctuating colour - a testimony to the extended knowledge acquired during this formative period.


Refereed Publication


Talk, Natural History Museum, 6 March 2008: Andrew Parker (Zoology, NHM) and the artist Franziska Schenk introduce their respective work on structural colour.

Part 1

Parker and Schenk introduce the main topics of the talk

Part 2

Parker presents his research on structural colour.

Part 3

Schenk traces the evolution of her work.

Part 4

Schenk presents her current work on butterflies. Parker explains the science.

Part 5

Schenk and Parker discuss the wider implications and impact of their respective research.

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