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Awakening at Toronto's Image Works Gallery

Awakening at Toronto’s Image Works Gallery

We’ve posted several times in the past on exhibits and events where stem cells feature not just as a subject of scientific study, but as works of art. In this we are not alone — in addition to our own Cells I See art contest, shows at the Ontario Science Centre and the critically-acclaimed Perceptions of Promise exhibition, many other examples of stem cells as art exist across the globe, such as the Smile of a Stem Cell that toured Europe, CIRM’s 2008 stem cell image contest, and last fall’s Art of Stem Cells exhibit at Harvard.

So another show should not be a surprise at all, particularly when the artist, Radha Chaddah, has spent considerable time in recent years perfecting her cell culturing and photography techniques in order to produce images of extraordinary depth. Awakening, showing until February 16 at Image Works Gallery in Toronto, is her first solo show, following her participation in several group-led events including Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.

While the space is relatively small, the images are anything but. At sizes up to 4 ft, they command attention with stunning contours and rich colours. As Chaddah explained to me, the images (such as the one pictured here), were created as composites — the cells were photographed in “slices” or layers, with the final image a merger of several layers. This is what gives them such intensity.

I have to admit a bias here. Not only am I partial to any explorations of the intersection of science and art (and communications), I’ve also been a fan of Chaddah’s work since I first encountered it in 2008. In the intervening years I have reaped the benefits of her scientific and artistic abilities in a myriad of ways. Of course I am supportive of her show.

But this should not detract from its impact. Even my kids (8 and 10 and just wanting to get to their grandparents’ house already for a holiday celebration) were drawn in, looking at each image to find their favourite, watching the exhibit’s video to see how the cells were created in the lab, asking questions at the show and after we got back in the car.

Questions are what it is all about. Awakening doesn’t set out to provide the answers, rather to bridge the gulf between lab science and the mainstream, and to share an incredible world of discovery.


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Lisa Willemse

Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a science communicator with 15+ years' experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, child development and technology. She launched this blog (first as the Stem Cell Network Blog) in 2009, and served as co-editor until April 2015. She is currently the Senior Communications Advisor for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has recently contributed to Motherboard, Science Borealis and the Genome Alberta and Canadian Blood Services blogs. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA.