Interview: Patrick Lysaght
Luca Curci talks with Patrick Lysaght, during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
As a research engineer in the semiconductor industry, Patrick Lysaght used synchrotrons to capture the onset of crystallization in novel nanoelectronic materials only a few atoms thick! The realization that atoms collectively self-organize into fractal branching networks at microscopic and grand scales in both the living and nonliving worlds altered the direction of his research. For the past decade, Lysaght has been highlighting the intimate physical patterns we share with the world we inhabit. “I try to capture the paradox of exquisite structure spontaneously emerging in our world of increasing randomness and disorder. My images represent lyrical portraits of entropy!” he has said. His new book, Morphology of Fleeting Structure – the art and science of fluid flow and crystal growth in the living and nonliving worlds, is a call-to-action to protest social injustice and confront the disgraceful anti-science movement and restore truth in society. It is also the subject of a documentary film slated for release in January 2022.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Patrick Lysaght – Art has always been freedom of expression which inevitably includes sociopolitical implications, so art must take a stand on issues rather than merely be pretty or entertaining. Over the course of decades as an electronic materials researcher, my artistic expression has evolved into a unified perspective of art and science. It is provocative, stimulating conversations about big questions pertaining to the meaning of our lives.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
PL – I’m fond of the expression – “I’ve been blessed with a short attention span.” I’m a restless experimenter curious about many things. In addition to being an electrical engineer working as an electronic materials scientist in the semiconductor industry, over time I’ve become an accomplished painter, photographer, wood and stone carver, writer, film-maker, and musician. Learning how to express me nonverbally involves puzzle solving that teaches me about myself in unique ways.
LC – How is your creative process?
PL – I pursue many investigations in parallel. We live in an awesome, stimulating world. Nature is the most extraordinary artist boasting breathtaking beauty and borderless imagination. For the past decade, I have been photographing spectacular images of how structure forms as things change in both the living and nonliving worlds. I’ve embarked on an incredible journey with no particular destination other than learning more about how I fit into the whole shebang and embracing the challenge of communicating this understanding through artistic imagery.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
PL – I illustrate the intersection of art and science through lyrical portraits of entropy – showcasing emerging structure. This endeavour highlights the subtle progression of time and reveals many of the patterns we share with the world around us. Fluid flow and crystal growth, two areas where nature truly shows off, are underpinned by the phenomenon of self-assembly. This occurs at the interface between different density fluids – air, water, and sand, where fractal branching networks emerge in ripples and dunes just like the branching in trees. Fractals are physical features that repeat as we are.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
PL – During the pandemic, I completed phase I of an ambitious photo project by publishing a comprehensive art book Morphology of Fleeting Structure which tells a compelling story of patterns common throughout the biotic and abiotic worlds. I also wrote, produced, and directed a 52-minute documentary film based on the book. These major art projects involved organizing and optimizing several years of abstract photos and paintings into a harmonious story of our incredible existence. I also composed and performed all the music for the film. It is tremendously rewarding to complete such a challenging, monumental task that includes photos of natural patterns from all 7 continents. Feedback from the book and film far exceeds my expectations. Successfully connecting with the global community is stimulating the drive to immerse me in phase II, Enduring Structure. Information may be found at www.entropygallery.com.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
PL – Nature does what’s easy. As things change, there are many more ways to be disordered than ordered, so things trend toward disorder of increasing entropy. The Big Bang was a low-entropy event and entropy keeps increasing as the universe keeps expanding and cooling. Fractals form the backbones of spectacular frost crystals that spontaneously emerge from the condensation of random water vapour molecules and sprawl out with geometric precision across my windshield in the mountains of New Mexico. This seems to contradict our understanding of entropy in a world of increasing disorder. What’s going on? If we film a wine glass shattering and play it in reverse, we see random pieces of glass spontaneously self-assemble into a crystalline wine glass. We know that doesn’t happen in real life, yet incredibly precise structures do self-assemble from utter randomness as if time is flowing in reverse! For the molecules involved, crystallization is indeed very low entropy, but there’s no free lunch and time does not flow backwards. The process of forming well-ordered structures, like stars, frost, and people gives off heat to the environment resulting in a net increase in entropy. I try to capture the paradox of exquisite structure spontaneously emerging from random events in a world of increasing disorder. My images represent lyrical portraits of entropy!
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
PL – I am greatly encouraged by the response to my work up to this point. I hope ITSLIQUID Platform will extend my reach into a new segment of art enthusiasts who appreciate my sincere and unique vision of how much we have in common with Earth and our environment.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
PL – The venues in Venice are spectacular, filled with such rich history! I am greatly honoured to participate. Organizationally, Giulia Spagnulo provided more than logistical guidance, she was professional and cooperative to the extent of great reassurance regarding every detail leading up to and during the exhibition.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
PL – I’m open to learning more about potential collaborations with ITSLIQUID.