The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation carried out a cross-cultural inter-disciplinary project inspired by International Year of Biodiversity 2010, with a view to forming a trans-national network, involving scientific research, arts and crafts.

© Rob Kesseler, 2011


The British artist Rob Kesseler, who has extensive experience working with botanical scientists at Kew Gardens (UK), worked with the scientists at the IGC exploring a variety of microscopic processes, examining micro patterning within samples he collected from Portuguese wildflowers, and also animal models (fruit fly, butterflies, ants and mice) used within the IGC.

The result of all his research was a series of powerful, high chroma images that lie somewhere between science and symbolism.

Reflecting the way in which science and the natural world migrates into many aspects of our daily lives his images were also translated into prints on fabric and a porcelain collection produced in collaboration with Vista Alegre Atlantis (Jardim Porcelânico).

“It has been an awesome challenge and an inspiring opportunity to spend a concentrated period of time working alongside so many brilliant minds.”
(Rob Kesseler)


In the UK, The University of Oxford Botanic Garden hosted Portuguese artists Gabriela Albergaria, who worked with diverse tree species in the University’s Harcourt Arboretum, just outside Oxford.

“To the outsider Art and Science might be seen to exist in two very different worlds that have very little in common – the studio and the laboratory, the one messy and chaotic the other clean and highly organised. But like most things in life things are never so black and white and there are more parallels than at first appear. Much of the research in contemporary science happens at a microscopic scale beyond the range of the human eye, and to reveal this, the scientist has become highly versatile in using complex imaging processes. In so doing they reveal the many complex forms and structures essential to life. It is easy to assume that the artist deals more with the visible world through figuration and abstraction but the power of the work also relies on revealing something hidden – the expression of an emotional response to the subject.

In previous centuries scientists and artists often worked together to develop an understanding of all aspects of the living world and indeed there were many notable polymaths from Leonardo da Vinci to Ernest Haeckel whose knowledge and skills traversed both disciplines. With the rapid advances in technology and its tendency towards ever narrower specialisation, the twentieth century saw an unhealthy gap emerge between the Arts and Sciences, but recent awareness in the value for collaboration has seen an enlightened attitude for cross collaboration across diverse fields.”
(Rob Kesseler, Artist in residence, 2010)


Here are links to shows, talks and exhibitions where Rob has shown part or all of the work developed while at the IGC:



Updated on 10 january 2020

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