Invisible beauty: more art of the microscopic in Second Life

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

In November 2011, I wrote about an intriguing exhibition of images by Guille (Antoronta) entitled Unseen Beauty, held at the Annexe of the Limoncello gallery. It was one of the the most unusual, engaging and informative exhibitions of photographic art I’d witnessed during the year, taking us as it did on a journey into the world of the microscopic (see: The art and beauty of the microscopic in Second Life).

While (at the time of writing) that exhibition is still open), I’ll delighted to say that the Desiderartum Gallery, managed by Peru Venom is hosting what might be regarded as the “part two” of a display of Guille’s work, in the form of Invisible Beauty, which formally opened on January 10th, 2022 (and my apologies to Guille for not being able to attend the opening in person).

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

The virtual incarnation of Antonio Guillén, Guille is a doctor in Biology and professor of Natural Sciences, whose background is as fascinating as his art, given his research projects span the environment, microbiology and astrobiology. He also has a refreshing – almost holistic, one might say – perspective on art and science in which the two interact with one another sans borders, informing one another and helping to jointly educate students and the public at large.

In particular, and given his professional focus on the microscopic, he has become a noted photographer-artist who captures the tiny worlds of micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, archaea and protists – in all their exquisite beauty. And by “noted”, I mean precisely that not only has his photography been exhibited across his native Spain – including the National Museum of Natural Sciences, Madrid -, it has also garnered awards such as Spain’s National Prize for Scientific Photography and the Giner de los Ríos Prize, the country’s most prestigious educational award. In addition, his project The Hidden Life of Water received the first world award at a Google Science Fair (2012).

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

As I noted in November 2021, Guille’s work doesn’t just present images of these incredible, tiny and diverse living organisms, it takes us on a journey into their worlds, the images revealing them individually or collectively in the the most amazing detail, while the texts he has supplied to go with the images (obtained by clicking the title card either below or to the right of each image) reveal more of the realities of these micro-organisms – and not in in dry, scientific terms that are starved of emotion. Rather, Guille’s descriptions are wonderfully fluid, descriptive and in places poetic. It thus offers further life to the tiny creations his microscope has captured in still form, whiles also underscoring his belief that art and science should freely interact.

Like most of the algae of the desmids family “Euastrum” it seems to look at itself in a mirror creating a pair of green Siamese joined by the same heart in a game of symmetry in which survival today and that of the future are bathed of this simple and intense beauty.
A thick transparent layer, adorned with winding valleys, spines or sculpted buttons and made with cellulose and pectin protects the body from these beautiful algae and helps them to float and move slowly both floating and on the bottoms where they live.

Guille’s sparkling description of the supernova-like Euastrum Verrucosum

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty – Euastrum Verrucosum

Split across the two levels of the gallery building, Invisible Beauty mixes some of the images seen within Unseen Beauty with those specific to this exhibition, providing a natural overlap between the two, and making a visit to both a natural experience.

In addition to the  journeys into the worlds of prokaryotes and eukaryotes presented by Unseen Beauty and Invisible Beauty, more of Guille’s work can be found on his Flickr stream, whilst in-world, his has – with the support and assistance of Kimika Ying – created El Universo en una Gota de Agua (“The Universe in a Drop of Water”). There, visitors can see more of Guille’s photography as well as learning about the history of the microscope and about the study of micro-organisms – and even enter their world, where a human hair offered at a scale to represent its magnification by a factor of 10,000 helps put all of this tiny life into perspective.

Universo en una Gota de Agua

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The art and beauty of the microscopic in Second Life

Limoncello Art Gallery Annexe: Unseen Beauty

Currently available within the Annexe of the Limoncello gallery – for a while longer, at least, given it opened at the start of November – is an intriguing exhibition of images by Guille (Antoronta) entitled Unseen Beauty.

Guille appears to be a relatively recent arrival in Second Life – as inferred by his Profile. An educator by profession and hailing from Spain, he appears to be bound to the natural beauty of Nature, noting in his Profile that it is the ultimate expression of art whilst his Flickr stream takes us on a journey into the microscopic – as is the case with Unseen Beauty.

Through both the exhibition and his Flickr stream, Guille takes us on a rarely-seen journey, one to a world that exists not beyond our own, but within it. no, not a world – an entire universe where the strangest and in many respects the more wonderous forms of life exist.

Limoncello Art Gallery Annexe: Unseen Beauty
It is possible that this is the first time that a sample of these characteristics has been exhibited in SL, as in RL this type of exhibition is extraordinarily scarce, as well as the knowledge of these wonderful and fascinating living beings to whom it is dedicated. All the images have been taken under the microscope, on living organisms that, after being observed, have been returned to the place from which they were collected. Almost all of them are very little known, and some of the smallest, contain the keys to know how we are and how we have evolved.

– Guille, describing Unseen Beauty

Thus  we are presented with a series of living images of the most incredible creatures, from cyanobacteria (aka Cyanophyta or “blue-green algae”), a kind of  prokaryote and one of the first organisms known to have produced oxygen, thus helping to start life on Earth as we know it today. Then there are diatoms such as the family of Coscinodiscaceae, noted for their radial symmetry and circular shapes when viewed from the front.

Each image is accompanied by an information giver providing a description of the featured algae, bacteria or amoebic form, each beautifully – in places poetically – written by Guille. Witness:

In each drop, the world of Cosmarium becomes rainbow, letting the sun melt on its cover, while absorbing the juice of life between its rays, tiny pearls that live are arcoris, true water jewels. They gravitate in the water like planets that in each drop for them is infinite.
Perhaps because it has the skin of an elephant, Cosmarium pachydermum, it endures the icy winter nights with the starry sky and the scorching summer sun on the highest peaks, as long as a drop of water is its ocean between Sphagnum, and in it, which is its universe, can show its soul scalloped with green jewel, perhaps from the times when the ice was the mantle of these mountains.

– Guille, describing Cosmarium pachydermun

Limoncello Art Gallery Annexe: Unseen Beauty

Beautiful images of life unimagined – but without which we would not be here to admire it – captured in an instant and written into the memory through colour and words, Unseen Beauty is a bewitching exhibition, not to be missed, and an excellent gateway to the additional exhibitions on the remaining levels of the Annexe.

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