layer ‘pings’ off, plucking out glass to leave an
assortment of possible patterns.
For anyone fascinated by what psychologists call
pareidolia – images in which the mind perceives a
familiar pattern where none actually exists, such as
Shakespeare’s camel in the clouds – the micrographs
from glue-plucked glass are a festival of stimulation.
Landscapes are there, but more fantastic than before
and mostly seen from above, and so are humanoid
figures and faces, insects and giant birds.
The images are made with a Nikon optical microscope.
Its zoom lens yields magnifications from 15-200x and it
is equipped with a moving stage, to enable very precise
positioning of the specimen (to less than a micron) and,
crucially for these images, with a motorised focus drive
that enables me to take ‘Z-stacks’ – multiple shots on
slightly different focal planes that the software combines
into a single, in-focus image. Equally vital is the ability
to combine transmitted and incident light, the latter
being provided by two rings of LEDs that can be zoned
and rotated. Most of the pictures used a combination of
light, but no filters or ‘tricks’ were deployed: the images
are records of light transmitted through, and scattered
off, multiple planes. Similarly, beyond a little cleaning
and turning the glue-plucked ones to black and white,
they have not been digitally reworked.
Let us return to Hooke. His great book was a glorious
product of the empiricism that swept through early
modern science in the 17th century, but one cannot
help but detect a lingering taint of Platonism of
the kind Sir Joshua Reynolds epitomised a century
later when he declared that the power of art lay in
discovering, in order to eliminate, ‘what is deformed
in nature...what is particular and uncommon’ so that
art could ‘rise above all local forms, singular customs,
particularities and details of every kind’ – contra
which, we may observe, these images from glass are
nothing but an accumulation of ‘particularities and
possible to digitally print
some of these images
from glass on to glass...
somehow it feels like
barely an imposition at all’