Like many painters, Franziska Schenk is inspired by what Darwin called the “endless forms most beautiful” of the natural world, and the dynamic processes of evolution, predation and camouflage. As she delved deeper into her work, she became particularly interested in iridescence, the property that allows some surfaces to appear differently colored depending on the angle or light in which they are viewed. Generations of painters have developed techniques to suggest the effect of iridescence – Schenk decided to apply a little science.
After some research into the optical physics of iridescence in animals such as cuttlefish and chameleons, Schenk set about finding pigments with similar reflective and color-changing qualities. She discovered that major advances had been made in color-shifting nanoparticles, but they were only produced for industrial uses, such as car finishes and cosmetics. With support from the Wellcome Trust and the Arts Council of England, Schenk was able to adapt the industrial nanoparticles for artistic use.
Her recent series of paintings of butterfly eyespots shows the results of her research – they look strikingly different in as the light and angle is varied, and the shimmering effect is uncanny. You can see many more examples of her work and read more about her process at her website.