Col­or­ful bac­te­ria pro­vide palette for mi­cro­bial art

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China -

In small petri dishes, col­or­ful bac­te­ria are ar­ranged art­fully, form­ing shapes of Vin­cent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

They are works from a mi­cro­bial art de­sign con­test held re­cently at Shenyang Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Univer­sity in north­east­ern China’s Liaon­ing prov­ince.

More than 170 stu­dents signed up for the com­pe­ti­tion and cre­ated more than 100 pieces of work with bac­te­ria they had cul­tured. The images in­cluded peo­ple, an­i­mals, car­toon char­ac­ters and copies of fa­mous paint­ings.

“It’s where sci­ence meets art,” said Zhang Yix­uan, vice-dean of the univer­sity’s Bi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ence and Bio­med­i­cine Col­lege.

“Mi­cro­bial art orig­i­nated in the United States; pain­ters not only need to have ba­sic lab­o­ra­tory skills but also knowl­edge about art.”

Wang Shuang, a con­tes­tant and stu­dent at the univer­sity, said, “Patience cre­ates mir­a­cles in mi­cro­bial paint­ing.”

To cre­ate a work, Wang ster­il­izes the lab equip­ment, ex­tracts bac­te­ria from soil, se­lects those that can cre­ate the right col­ors and cul­tures them. The process usu­ally takes a month and needs to be done in a strictly san­i­tized en­vi­ron­ment, as any bac­te­ria from the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment can com­pro­mise the work.

“The process is la­bo­ri­ous but fun,” Wang said.

“As we cul­ture the bac­te­ria in the dish, we can wit­ness the process of bac­te­ria grow­ing into col­or­ful dots.”

Wang uses a slim bam­boo stick to se­lect the color he wants to paint on an­other dish.

“The se­lec­tion is very com­pli­cated and de­mand­ing,” he said. “If the bac­te­ria se­lected are not pure enough, they will grow into dif­fer­ent col­ors in the other dish, dam­ag­ing the work.”

His paint­ings are com­pleted af­ter cul­tur­ing the se­lected bac­te­ria for three to five days.

Wang said he and his fel­low con­tes­tants ex­tracted the harm­less bac­te­ria from the soil they col­lected from the roots of herbs grow­ing on a lo­cal moun­tain dur­ing their sum­mer va­ca­tion.

“The con­test com­bines pro­fes­sional knowl­edge with col­or­ful ac­tiv­i­ties,” Zhang said.

“We ex­pect it to en­cour­age the stu­dents to innovate and en­rich their lives.”

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