Franziska Schenk is an artist and researcher with an MA in Fine Art (with Distinction) and First Class Honours degrees in Fine Art (Birmingham City University), and in Art Education (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt). A well-qualified, experienced Lecturer in Fine Art at Birmingham City University and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Birmingham.
She is initiator of, and principal investigator on, funded art and science projects focusing on the conversion of nature’s iridescent colour to the painter’s palette – thereby introducing flow, dynamism, transience and an evolutionary element into painting.
For over a decade now, Franziska has investigated the complex interrelationships that exist between fine art painting and the natural sciences, in particular optical physics and evolutionary biology. The natural world has provided ample material for an exploration of fundamental natural principles – evolution, fossilisation, predation, mimicry and camouflage – and their relevance to contemporary art practice and theory.
Inspired by nature’s varied textures, patterns and kaleidoscopic colours, the artist has conducted extensive research, and experimentation with, unconventional bio-inspired materials and methods. This, in turn, has led her to dovetail the ancient and modern, namely old-masterly techniques and latest iridescent paint technology.
Research themes include:
- mimesis and biomimetics
- abstraction and camouflage
- process and evolution
- pattern and flow
- light and colour
- optics and haptics
- vision and perception
- Academic Advisory Board: Royal West of England Academy
- Member of: Colour Group England
- Reviewer for: Leonardo, Journal of Arts, Science and Technology
2013—14 Of Men and Birds of Paradise, cross-museum residency at Oxford Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum, forthcoming.
2012 Visiting Scholarship, St. John’s College, Oxford, July - Sept.
2010 The Art of Iridescence. Art & Science project in conjunction with the British Science Festival, Apr - Oct. Funding body: Arts Council England.
2009 In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution. Project forming part of Darwin200 which involved a residency at the University of Birmingham (Biosciences), Jan - Dec. Funding body: Wellcome Trust.
2007—8 Interact: Artists in Industry. Placement at the University of Birmingham (Physics and Biosciences), Nov 07 - July 08. Funding body: Arts Council England.
2007 Sea Change: Converting Nature’s Fluctuating Colour to the Painter’s Palette. Art & Science project hinging on a residency at Natural History Museum, London, May - Oct. Funding body: AHRC.
2005—6 Colour and Chemistry. Project devised by Sherborne House Gallery, Dorset. Participation in both their Colourlab symposium (Nov 05) and their education / exhibition programme (Feb 06).
2004 Mantle of Many Colours. Residency at National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, March - Oct. Funding body: Arts Council England.
F. Schenk, Nature’s Fluctuating Colour Captured on Canvas? In: C.A. Brebbia and M.W. Collins, eds., Colour in Art, Design and Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 97-108 (2011).
Schenk, F. (2015) Biomimetics, color, and the arts. In: Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2015, 9 March 2015 through 11 March 2015, San Diego; United States
Schenk, Franziska and Wilts, Bodo D and Stavenga, Doekele G (2013) The Japanese jewel beetle: a painter's challenge. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 8 (4). 045002. ISSN 1748-3182
F. Schenk and A. Parker, “Iridescent Colour: From Nature to the Painter’s Palette”, Leonardo, Vol. 44, No. 2, 108-115 (2011).
F. Schenk, “Nature’s Fluctuating Colour captured on Canvas?” International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, Vol. 4, No. 3, 274-284 (2009).
F. Schenk and J. Harvey, “Reflections on the Natural History Museum: The Art of Iridescence and Nature’s Jewels”, International Journal of the Arts in Society, Vol. 3, Nr. 5, 133-144 (2009).
Manuscripts in preparation
F. Schenk, B. Wilts, D.G. Stavenga, “The Madagascan Sunset Moth: An Artist’s Challenge”, commissioned by Bioinspiration Biomimetics for forthcoming special issue on Biophotonics.
F. Schenk, “In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution”, Leonardo.
Writing by others
(quoted extensively by) P. Ball, “Paintings Made with Iridescent Nanopaints change Color on the Spot” Scientific American, Web Exclusives (13 May 2012)
2013/14 Of Men and Birds of Paradise, Oxford Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum, forthcoming.
2011 The Art of Iridescence, Darwin Festival, Shrewsbury, February.
2010 The Art of Iridescence, British Science Festival, Birmingham, September.
2009 In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution, formed part of Darwin200, School of Art, BCU, November.
2009 From Sea to Air, Birmingham Artsfest, Central Library, Birmingham, September.
2004/5 Mantle of Many Colours, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, Nov 04 - April 05.
2013 Iridescence in Nature and Art, Museum of Man, Nature and Science, Groningen University, Netherlands, forthcoming.
2009 Evolution of Evolution, Glasgow Science Centre, June.
2006 Vibrant 2, Sherborne House Gallery, Dorset, June.
2000 England 2000, Gallery 1, Frankfurt, Germany, Feb - Apr.
1999 Beginnings, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Oct - Dec.
1999 R.S.M.A. Annual Exhibition, group show, Mall Galleries, London, October.
1999 Sefton Open, group show, Atkinson Gallery, Southport, Sept - Nov.
Talks and conferences
2012 Of Men and Birds of Paradise. Talk to staff at Pitt Rivers and Oxford Museum of Natural History, June.
2012 Invited research visit to University of Groningen. Department of Neurobiophysics, Netherlands, June.
2011 The Art of Iridescence. Darwin Festival, Shrewsbury.
2010 The Art and Science of Iridescence. Public lecture in conjunction with British Science Festival, Birmingham.
2009 Franziska Schenk in Discussion with Prof. Frederic Fol Leymarie. Thursday Club, Goldsmiths University of London, November.
2009 In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution. Public lecture (introduced by Dr J. Pritchard, Biosciences, University of Birmingham), School of Art, Birmingham City University, November.
2009 Bio-inspired ‘Pigments’ and their Conversion to the Painter’s Palette. International workshop: Bio-inspired Photonic Structures, San Sebastian, Spain, July.
2009 Biophotonics: An Inspiration for Fine Art Painting. Art & Science colloquium: Biophotonics – Bioinspiration, Fondation des Treilles, France, May.
2009 In the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Evolution. Darwin Day, University of Birmingham, February.
2008 Capturing Nature’s Fluctuating Colour on Canvas. Interdisciplinary meeting: Colour in Art, Design and Nature, Edinburgh Academy, October.
2008 Reflections on the Natural History Museum: The Art of Iridescence and Nature’s Jewels. 3rd International Conference on the Arts and Society, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, July.
2008 Art and Iridescence: The Museum as an Exemplar. New Perspectives Initiative, Natural History Museum, London, April.
2008 Fluctuating Colour in Nature and Art. Public talk (jointly delivered with Prof Andrew Parker), Nature Live, Natural History Museum, London, March.
2007 Art and Science: A Dialogue. Public lecture, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, December.