Rob Kesseler


Airborne: Ilex 1. Pollutant particles on the surface of a holly leaf. The image was collected using energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry to isolate elements of aluminium, magnesium, calcium, iron, oxygen, calcium and carbon as part of a collaborative art and science project exploring air pollution on leaves with Rob Kesseler (Central Saint Martins) and Louise Hughes (Oxford Instruments).




A stain on life 

by Rob Kesseler



Metachromasia is a phenomenon whereby the colour of the staining process that occurs in biological tissues in certain stains characteristically alters after they bind to particular substances present in tissues called chromotropes. 


Metachromasia is also an apt term for artistic practice, as it stains our vision of the things around us, shifting our filters, casting a personal hue over the unseen and overlooked, causing us to readjust our perception of what we know and what we think we know or have forgotten. Scientists, too, stain minute fragments of the world around us, from our bodies to the flora and fauna, in their quest to understand life’s complexities and to use that knowledge for the benefit of the planet and all those who inhabit it. Both scientists and artists possess a chromatropic vision of the world. 

Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Emeritus Professor of Arts, Design & Science at Central Saint Martins – UAL. Working at the interface between art and science, he collaborates with molecular biologists and botanical scientists to explore the living world at a microscopic level. His images are translated into a wide range of contexts and media and shared through exhibitions and an award-winning book series. Kesseler’s work reveals a hidden world beyond the scope of the human eye, somewhere between science and symbolism, in which the many complexities of representing plants are concentrated into mesmeric visual images.


The Living Systems Lab Symposium by Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London (UAL), in collaboration with maat, introduces research projects which exist at the intersection of art, design, architecture and biology by Carole Collet, Heather Barnett, Nancy Diniz, Alice Taylor and Rob Kesseler.