Nobel Art

This year I interviewed 25 Nobel Prize laureates and other top scientists of MIT, NASA and asked them what metaphors, thought experiments and visualisations they use in order to explain highly abstract problems or solutions. I was amazed how approachable they were and how responsive. Then I started collecting: Schroedinger's cat, Maxwell's demon, Moebius bands, the Tree of Life, the Vitruvian Man, Darwin's finches and many more. As a painter I paint, so I created for large paintings called, Tree of Life, The Great Debate, The Speed of Light and Shut up, Monkey Brain. I'll be showing these pieces for the first time in Cannes France, this summer.

Tree of Life

(after a theme suggested by Frances H. Arnold, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018)

Acrylics, lacquer and china ink on deep edged canvas,

100 x 150 cm (39 x 59 inches)

signed verso “Albrecht”

All life is one. In this painting, I created a tree of life that combines it all, scientists, animals both alive and extinct, branches and twigs that came out of our last universal common ancestor, known as LUCA. Biology as a discipline is at the intersection of physics and chemistry, or perhaps biology is just a special case of physics and chemistry, which is why I put Jane Goodall next to Michael Faraday, a fractured hominid skull, a Dodo bird and the giant beard of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, father of the periodic table who only shaved once a year as you can see. Somewhere on a branch Richard Feynman plays his famous bongo drums. Kermit the Frog performs a dance reminding us of Alessandro Volta’s unsettling experiments with Kermit’s ancestors and their legs.

Missing links (or roots) are central to all biological research regarding the tree of life, so I added an ammonite and a rendering of what the old Archeopterix might have looked like, the animal that bridged the gap between dinosaurs and birds. When I interviewed Nobel Prize winning scientists about their favorite visualisations, I realized how many of them talked to me about Darwin’s finches, so I put them on canvas as well.

You will find their heads in the top left half. The finches are a remarkable example of adaptation, just look at their beaks. All of this and more is part real, part anticipation and part dream, so I added two dreaming naturalists, one from ancient Greece and a contemporary. Can you find them?

The Great Debate

Acrylics, lacquer and china ink on deep edged canvas,

100 x 150 cm (39 x 59 inches)

signed verso “Albrecht”

This piece is all about the struggles of creativity and survival, so I invited a number of immortal characters to a table in a library, put a stegosaurus and a sand clock next to it and waited for things to evolve. Bernhard Riemann, the mathematician who provided the maths for Einstein, Carl Sagan and Johannes Keppler are debating the nature of time, behind them Ben Franklin nearly gets his hand blown off in a lightning storm. You will also find Ada Lovelace who probably was the first person to recognise the full potential of algorithms and computers. Another hero of mine is courageous Amelia Earhardt the pilot, who sits between an angry preacher and Archimedes whose circles are about to be disturbed by an ignorant Roman soldier. Sometimes scientific debates get ugly, so I painted two young gentlemen having a fist fight. There is another struggle, that between man and nature, so I created a tug of war between us humans and a Hadron collider.

Can you find the caveman who feels superior to a Trilobite? This amazing creature and his family (I mean the Trilobite) managed to survive for some 300 million years. We humans are nowhere near this remarkable success. Hey wait, there is also a group of kids sitting next to each other, their noses in books. I am not sure what they are reading, but I bet they will come up with some impressive ideas, if we let them.

The Speed of Light

Acrylics, lacquer and china ink on deep edged canvas,

100 x 150 cm (39 x 59 inches)

signed verso “Albrecht”

Scientific thought experiments are key instruments of discovery and discussion. This abstrahistic landscape is populated with some of the most iconic visualisations in physics like Schrödinger’s cat, an imagined animal which is dead and alive at the same time, drawn by a silhouetted figure that resembles Lise Meitner, a scientist who never received the Nobel Prize - until I gave her one right here and now on canvas. The actual medal is adorned by a metallic Moebius band, another unlikely but very real object.

Opposite Einstein’s laughing face in the top left corner, a young boy with binoculars explores the sky dominated by Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, one of the most influential fusions of mathematics and art in the history of ideas. He is positioned like a medieval patron saint in the top middle of the painting - a secular redeemer of golden proportions. Right below him Greek mythical hero Achilles is unsuccessfully chasing a tortoise according to Zeno’s paradox about speed and diminishing distances. A large green train comes zooming towards us from the left as if riding on a beam of light. Einstein used this challenging metaphor to explore the question of simultaneity of observations.

Shut up, Monkey Brain!

Acrylics, lacquer and china ink on deep edged canvas, ! 100 x 150 cm (39 x 59 inches)! signed verso “Albrecht”!

The human mind is a curious thing, capable of both the most ingenious and stupid thoughts almost simultaneously. In this canvas about the brain and human ingenuity I put a silhouette of the brain in the lower left, next to Bertrand Russell, a chimp and an Iguanodon, because this is how our brain is built: lizard, monkey and human. Above Bertrand, Atlas the Titan carries the symbol of radioactivity on his shoulders like a burden or perhaps a treasure. You decide.

Flying through the clouds of his own imagination Baron von Munchhausen sits on his imagined canon ball about to crash into an impossible Rubik’s cube in the top center. Genius self-taught inventor and actress, Hedy Lamarr (please google this brilliant lady!), throws a dirty look at Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson who discovered the Cosmic Background Radiation by sheer luck thus scooping a Nobel Prize. Right below them, another absolute genius, Marie Curie takes a selfie, completing the circle of human imagination, perspiration and creation. Did you know she won the Nobel Prize twice?

#NobelPrize #science #Einstein #Maxwell #Darwin #physics #evolution #curie #Lamarr #Pensias #Wilson #Discovery #Anaximander #Newton #Keppler

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Albrecht Behmel

Zollernstrasse 7


72250 Freudenstadt


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