Publish at April 05 2022 Updated April 12 2022

Everything small is aesthetic [Thesis].

Sensitive convergences between microscopists and artists

Air bubbles in mounting liquid seen by fluorescence microscope (credit: Benoit Pignard)

"I am a man who occupies myself, every night, looking through thirty-foot glasses at these great bodies that roll over our heads, and when I want to relax, I take my little microscopes, and observe a lemon or a moth."

Montesquieu - Philosopher (1689-1755)

Every year, a photomicrography competition is organized by Nikon, the Nikon Small World Awards. At this event, researchers from around the world submit images taken with their microscopes for the title of the best shot of the year.

This competition is exciting for both scientists and amateurs discovering the splendor of life on this scale before their amazed eyes. This world abounds with fascinating shapes and structures often invisible to the naked eye. We can then ask ourselves if this invisible world can be the muse of some artists preferring cellular aesthetics to the aesthetics of bodies.

This is what Yan Jun Xu sets out to explore in her thesis "Microscopic Beauty in Contemporary Plastic Arts".

Why read this thesis

Yan Jun Xu invites us on a journey to the convergence of two worlds, the biological and the artistic.

The chosen narrative style, both light and composed, offers readers the impression of being carried from image to image, from reference to reference, from surprise to surprise throughout the text.

This manuscript is a gold mine for novices seeking an initiation into this artistic theme. The author has done a remarkable job of referencing allowing the most curious to discover or rediscover the artists or scientific works presented by the author.

Drinking whey

"Among the many art forms that make up the larger family of the arts, visual art is one of the most prominent members. It embodies an art form that evolves with the times.

The spirit of each era is reflected in it and make it a living art form that evolves with the times. In view of the discoveries concerning the universe and the technological and scientific innovations, some contemporary artists have begun to take an interest in the microscopic world, previously neglected. For these artists, this world is endowed with an overwhelming aesthetic capable of introducing new forms of contemporary artistic creation. They are inspired by images evoking mystical, spiritual, fantastic and rhythmic substances from the micro-world via the microscope to create innovative artistic productions offering a particular visual experience based on the authenticity of colors and forms. The colors and shapes of the images observed through the microscope become a source of inspiration for new artistic creations and contribute to the emergence of a new aesthetic: "Microscopic aesthetics".

This discovery and exploitation of the artistic potential of microscopic aesthetics is made possible thanks to the simultaneous evolution of artistic techniques and sciences in the contemporary era. These two fields stimulate each other and thus make possible phenomena such as the emergence of a microscopic aesthetic combining the rigor of science and the flexibility of abstraction. Artistic productions inspired by this microscopic aesthetic then offer a pictorial result that is both mystical and scientific.

The world is small

The exploration of cellular beauty proposed by Yan Jun Xu allows us to see the complexity of living things and the impression of chaos strangely composing a harmonious spectacle.

The author invites us to rediscover the beauty of living or its interpretation. Without sublimating the real, he invites us to note the echoes of its aesthetics in our tastes and arts.

Through a cellular exploration, we also explore the Human and the Universe. The author thus succeeds in offering us a summary of aesthetic rules from the microscopic world transposed to modeling, color, space and much more.

Being on a small cloud

Yan Jun Xu's hope is that his research can allow his readers to find more inspiration and the nature of being human. This work is carried by the author's reflection and gradually puts the reader in an introspective process life to life of his place in the living, scales and their many aesthetic invitations. An invitation to see the world differently, under different scales overwhelming, moving and invigorating.

And you then? How do you draw aesthetic inspiration from the micro-world?

Good reading

This work was defended on December 9, 2017 in Paris, in the context of obtaining the degree of doctor of the University of Paris 1 and was carried out at the UFR 04 Arts Plastiques et Sciences de l'Art, l'institut ACTE (Arts, Creations, Théories Esthétiques) : UMR8218. (Paris - France)


Yan Jun Xu. Microscopic beauty in contemporary visual arts. Art and art history. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, 2017. French. ⟨NNT: 2017PA01H310⟩. ⟨tel-01783647⟩



Nikon Small World Awards -

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