Plankton, simply “drifting forms”, populate our oceans and lakes. Many are very small and on their small scale water behaves as if it were very viscous - water movements are suppressed and the environment is very gentle and quite silent. Cosseted in this gentle milieu and relieved by the water from the need to support themselves, plankton have had the freedom to evolve beautiful and often bizarre forms, fascinating scientists and artists alike. The distinguished 19th Century German biologist – Ernst Haeckel - was captivated by their form and published beautiful illustrations of plankton in a monograph Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature). These images attracted the attention of artists, who took Haeckel’s images and used them in a variety media: fine art, architecture, jewellery, music, wood carving, cinemicroscopy, embroidery, quilting, interior fittings.
I want to explore with you the impact of Haeckel’s illustrations in art and design, and also the work of other scientist who were inspired by what they discovered under the microscope and to open the door to the silent world of the plankton so you and others can be thrilled and inspired by a part of Nature largely hidden from us. I shall set up a dialogue and a reference base to enable us all to access the images and gain inspiration.