Professor Rob Kesseler

Profile image of Professor of Arts, Design and Science

Professor of Arts, Design and Science

Central Saint Martins

Biography

Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Professor at Central Saint Martins. As University Chair in Arts, Design & Science (2013-16) he initiated a series of events and opportunities for students drawing on his extensive links with the science community, including surgeon Roger Kneebone (Imperial College) and biologists Enrico Coen (John Innes Plant Science Centre) and Chris Hawes (Oxford Brookes Micro Imaging facility). As NESTA Fellow at Kew (2001-2004) he undertook research into a range of microscopy techniques from which he developed an extensive collection of images. These were exhibited in a solo exhibition at Kew and provided the basis for a series of award winning books on Pollen, Seeds and Fruit. In 2010, as Year of Bio-Diversity Fellow at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Portugal, he worked with molecular biologists to create a collection of cellular images derived from microfine sections of local flora which have featured extensively in exhibitions in Portugal, USA, China and Chile. More recently he was partnered with Melina Schuh from the MRC in Cambridge as part of a major EU funded project that brought together four artists and scientists from ten scientific research centres across Europe. The resulting films and artworks were shown in Rome, Vienna, Heidelberg and London.

Rob is President of the ‘Science and the Arts Section’ of the British Science Association, and a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, where he is a member of the education and outreach committee.

Research interests

Intersections between art, science and design. Plant science. Microscopy. Photography.

Research statement

My work reflects the way in which the natural world migrates into many aspects of our daily lives and seeks to reveal a micro cosmos of complex structures and ornamental patterns. Extending the long and illustrious history of artists working with flowers and plants, I seek to reveal a hidden world lying beyond the scope of the human eye, producing work that lies somewhere between science and symbolism, in which the many complexities of representing plants are concentrated into mesmeric visual images and objects.

Through extensive collaboration with scientists I am able to prepare all my own specimens in the lab and use a range of complex microscopy processes to create multi-frame composite images of pollen, seeds and other internal plant organs. Using a sophisticated coordination of hand, eye and intuition, these are modified by the addition of many subtle layers of colour to reflect functional and structural characteristics to create intense large format photographs. The images form part of a body of work which explores many modes of representation, from spontaneous ink and dye drawings to cyanotypes. These in turn are translated into a wide range of contexts and media, ceramics, glass and textiles, video, and photography. 

Project awards, and grants

2010, Year of Biodiversity Fellow, Gulbenkian Science Institute Portugal

2001 – 2004, NESTA Fellow at Kew

Students

Katerina Evangelou, The use of illustration for the creation of an original visual narrative that communicates current scientific knowledge about butterfly eyespots to a wider audience.

Selected research outputs