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Filamentous fungi biopaintings

Patricia Noronha’s art work published in Leonardo

Oeiras, 24.11.2014

On top of their biological interest, at ITQB microorganisms are also explored as artistic tools. Patricia Noronha, ITQB’s resident artist, has been using filamentous fungi and food dyes for producing biopaintings in Petri dishes, which are them preserved in polyester resin. The work was published in Leonardo, an MIT peer-reviewed journal of art science and technology.

Different fungi species form distinct patterns, shapes and colors. Patricia Noronha exploits this variability for art, selecting the species, culture medium, temperature and growing time. Spores are inoculated, as a drawing, on growth medium and allowed to germinate and grow for some time. By changing and controlling the different parameters, different biopaintings emerge. New aesthetic possibilities are achieved by adding food dyes to the culture at specific time points identified by the artist.

But the biggest challenge has been preserving these living paintings. In a process that can last up to 2 month, Patricia Noronha uses a litany of chemical and biochemical procedures to arrest growth, while stabilizing the colors. Finally, the culture is dehydrated into a thin film and preserved with a synthetic resin. The final results are lively colored biopaintings in Petri dishes, which the artist displays in different settings. A recent example is Universus, an exhibition displayed last summer at ITQB.

Patricia Noronha is a resident artist at ITQB since 2008. With a PhD in Biology, Patricia develops her artwork in the Microbiology of Man-made Environment laboratory at ITQB.

Original Article

Leonardo (2014) doi:10.1162/LEON_a_00962

Biopaintings produced by filamentous fungi

Patrícia Noronha


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