‘Quark’ exhibition illuminates particles, cosmos

Japanese artist Eiji Sumi has created a new installation on display in Bangkok that combines light and movement, evoking both the vastness of the universe and its tiniest of particles — the subatomic quark.

The installation, titled “Quark,” is being shown at H Project Space, part of H Gallery Bangkok, from February 10 through March 2.

“Quark” features a reflective powder that swirls within a site-specific structure, according to the gallery description. The particles and their “tornado-like movement” evoke associations with the cosmos, while also highlighting relationships between art and science, the gallery noted.

Quark” from Eiji Sumi on Vimeo.

For those who are a little rusty on their particle physics (myself included), quarks are subatomic particles; broadly speaking, the world around us is composed of atoms, and atoms contain quarks. As an elementary particle, quarks are the smallest of the small — we’re unable to break them down further into additional components.

Sumi said he often works with light as a medium, and the project came from an interest in particles and how they could be visualized, drawing inspiration from Einstein and the discovery of photons, as well as French neo-impressionist Georges Seurat‘s technique for painting light.

Quark” (particles in glass with water and magnetic stirrer) from Eiji Sumi on Vimeo.

Quark” (particles in glass with air) from Eiji Sumi on Vimeo.

While he hasn’t specifically focused on science in previous projects, Sumi said that his work includes analyzing light-related phenomenon such as oscillation, spectrum, and so on.

“Science is interesting because there is phenomenon and reason, so I can apply this reason to art and try to experiment with the creative ideas,” he told Sparked by email.

“Also, there is something in common between scientists and artists,” he said. “Both scientists and artists pursue to prove our theory and vision. And we go through experiments to achieve this goal until we get it [right].” The obstacles encountered are an interesting element that can lead to new discoveries, he added.

In “Quark,” this type of experimentation included testing different methods to power the reflective material.

The installation uses a reflective powder that can be found in materials such as traffic signs or protective jackets, Sumi said. While the powder is light enough to remain airborne for periods of time on its own, he devised various methods to infuse greater movement.

For one version, for example, he created a magnetic stirrer that moves the particles in water. Adding light and lasers to the movement creates “beautiful light particles,” he said. Another version uses air instead: A fan with a timing system circulates the particles, and the movement is captured by a convex lens spotlight. A third version, still being developed, uses heat to generate particle motion.

Originally from Japan, Sumi has a degree from Rikkyo University and also trained and worked in New York City for several years. He moved to Bangkok in 2012 and is currently a lecturer in the Communication Design program at Chulalongkorn University.

For more information about his work, visit eijisumi.com.


Nicole is an editor and writer living in San Francisco.

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