The Independent Collector

OHN WINDSOR'S GUIDE TO COLLECTING CONTEMPORARY ART: GILES REVELL

IN SUMMER last year, this ladybird was scurrying over tussocks of grass on the cliffs of Ballard Down, Dorset. Now it is a work of art - a triumph of nature and electron microscopy.

Giles Revell, a photographer and former geologist, captured it in a jamjar, killed it in his deep freeze, dehydrated it in alcohol - then spent a month scanning it bit by bit, joining the scans by computer. The result is a giant, 30in by 40in black-and-white pigment transfer on to art paper of a minutely detailed ladybird.

Ink with a non-fade life of 75 years has recently been developed - which means that Revell can produce saleable images of insects blown up to 12ft by 9ft, using an Iris ink-jet printer.

He uses a scanning electron microscope instead of a light microscope - electrons instead of photons - because its magnifying power is greater, and it produces a three-dimensional effect.

It can magnify up to 50,000 times. The ladybird is magnified a mere 50 times before processing. "It has a lot of form," says Revell. "Real surface relief."

He has also produced prints of magnifications of a woodlouse and a grasshopper, and an X-ray of a skate fish. "I was interested in recording everyday insects that we never think twice about," he says, "in order to reveal how complex they are. The ladybird's feet are like little brushes and its underside is completely covered in tiny hairs that lie evenly, as if they have been combed."

Revell, 33, was introduced to light microscopy of minerals while training as a geologist. He worked for two years with the British Geological Survey before embarking on a career as a photographer in advertising. "I also read a lot of books on natural history. They got me thinking."

The Natural History Museum's microscopy department told him how to use chemical fixatives to preserve dead insects, and put him in touch with the Royal Holloway University, which allowed him to use its pounds 60,000 scanning electron microscope.

The insects need to be dehydrated - otherwise the vacuum in which electrons are fired at them would cause them to explode. The vacuum also ensures that air molecules do not impede the trajectory of the electrons. The image is in fact created by electrons emitted from the surface of the insect as the electron beam hits it.

The dead insect is coated in gold for maximum conductivity - like a tiny, gilded pharaoh in a vacuum-packed sarcophagus.

It can take up to two days to lay out an insect. Revell's aesthetic sense dictates that it should lie with legs and antennae symmetrically placed, not sticking out at all angles. "The trouble," says Revell, "is that they don't die tidily. I want to see them as symmetrical forms. The positions I put them in are not completely forced. They do pull up their legs symmetrically in real life - when resting on a leaf, for example.

"But they are very brittle after dehydration. You can spend a day arranging an insect with pins and prods - and then a leg falls off."

It takes even longer - about a month, working six to eight hours a day - to join 75 6in-by-7in electronic scans seamlessly by computer, to produce the complete picture. The computer file is then printed on to art paper.

If Revell ever succeeds in producing an electronic blow-up of a moth, his art will have reached its apotheosis. As soon as you touch a dead moth, its hair and the scales of its wings begin to fall off. "There must be a way," he says.

Prices: pounds 3,000 plus VAT in editions of seven from the Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London SW3 (0171-352 3649). The gallery will be exhibiting Revell's work in May and June 1999

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam