Ellen Karin Mæhlum
The series of prints entitled GEOPRINT is based upon the geological forms and patterns that become apparent on a macro and micro scale. The visual material has, up to now, been directly related to specific geographical areas on Spitsbergen – areas that have been under scrutiny by the research expedition AMASE –(The Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition).
About the project
I have spent several extended study periods on Svalbard – mostly at the artist’s studio (Kunstnerhytta), located in the research base at Ny- Ålesund. As a result of this, PGP (The Physics of Geological Processes) invited me to join their research expedition – AMASE – as an artist during the summers of 2003 and 2004.
During the expedition I followed the work of both biologists and geologists in the field. The research methods they used ranged from large scale optical observations, to the detailed microscopic methods used to examine minerals, structures and biological material.
Research results are usually presented in the form of publications. This is a presentation form that is widely accepted in research circles, but is often quite inaccessible to those outside this milieu. PGP were interested in exploring the possibility of using other ways of visualising and mediating their observations.
Artists often work with concepts, metaphors and comparisons that touch upon many different fields of knowledge. How can scientific methods and artistic insight join together, influencing and inspiring one another during the observation process, the preparatory process and the presentation of the results of the research? These were the questions the researchers wanted to explore, and the reason they decided to commission an artist to join their expedition.
About the prints
As well as observing the work that was carried out, making drawings and taking photographs during the fieldwork period, I was able to make use of a portable digital microscope. The visual material I collected whilst using the microscope, along with the researcher’s photographic images of stone scrapings, form the basis of several of the images in the series.
Whilst studying the large amounts of material I had gathered, I was able to see how the visual structures developed, from the microscopic “inside the stone” images to macro-sized images. How do these visual structures change, creating new patterns and shapes during the transition from small-scale to large-scale, using different sections, displacements in size, etc? Small changes in the chosen section give entirely new motifs and content. The images are built up layer by layer in the printing press, using printing plates and templates made of plastic and metal.