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ZACHARY BEER, exploring the processes of Molecular Biology

Words by Lula Criado

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Twin degrees in Molecular Biology and Fine Art make the work of Cambridge-based artist Zachary Beer creative and innovative. His paintings, full of beautiful structures and solid colours, are explorations into the processes of Molecular Biology. He translates microscopic images of meteorites and biological structures (such as homeobox genes and metabolic pathways) into colour.

Scintillation, his most recent work, presents an image of a meteorite enlarged with a digital microscope. The paintings translate into art the life-giving exchange of amino acids that takes place in a meteorite impact.

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What do you see as the ultimate discovery in human history?

The discovery of a large molecule called ATP synthase – a rotating structure found in the cells of all species. The molecule puts together the universal energy carrier ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP synthase is basically a small motor powered by hydrogen ions – a profoundly beautiful structure.

Do you find creativity where there was once insanity?

Insanity, to me, is the repetition of incoherent patterns; in my experience, the coherence of mind found through painting makes for a much more contiguous and peaceful worldview.

If you would have to give up one of your five senses, which one would it be and why?

Not being able to taste – you could eat any order of things (for example, lychees and eggs) and still be full! But research appears to show that smell informs much of what we taste, so it could get complicated!

Empathy and apathy… Would you be able to work with someone like yourself?

It seems that taking offence is the most creative thing many people do with their day – I try to take less offence and understand more – but maybe if I worked with myself I might take offence at everything I do – that could lead to some serious introspection!

How do you cope with creative desperation?

Creative desperation often comes from the feeling that all things must happen in a single moment of time – when a sane and hopefully achievable sense of sequence through time appears, the desperation seems to evaporate.

And one for the ride, when do you decide that enough is enough?

When I paint I strangely feel almost a point when the brush snaps off the canvas – and give or take a few extra marks, that will be that.

(All photos courtesy the artist)

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