Diatoms are microscopically small, single-celled algae. They protect their fragile cell contents using two external valves made of silicon dioxide that fit nicely together like a cheese box. Most diatoms are no bigger than a tenth or even a hundredth of a millimeter, but these algae still form the very important first link in the food chain. Diatoms in rivers and oceans fix half to two thirds of the atmospheric CO2 through their photosynthesis, producing that way also about 20% of all oxygen worldwide.
Each species has a unique pattern on its valves that facilitates the identification of the species. This pattern, consisting of a beautiful combination of lines and dots, gives these diatoms the allure of real, miniscule, small works of art. The exhibition "Diatoms, art in a box of nature" takes these valves and their design as a starting point. With different materials - ceramics, watercolour art, photography and printing - the shape and structure of diatoms are the central inspiration for the artists.
Prof. Dr. Bart Van de Vijver, a researcher at Meise Botanic Garden and the University of Antwerp, is the curator of this exhibition. He brought together 4 artists and 2 photographers around the idea of using diatoms as an art object. He himself delivered some beautiful pictures of diatom valves made with the help of a scanning electron microscope.