Lalie Schewadron uses science to produce art

UK/USA trained Lalie Schewadron is the rising digital art star whose show in Switzerland will shortly be followed by one in the USA. Cultivating the frontiers between art and science, she uses sophisticated algorithms to draw the essence out of the beauty of nature. Her modern-day frescoes will be seen by 5,000 persons a day at the unusual venue of the university hospital in Lausanne.

Israeli-born Lalie Schewadron studied bio-chemistry before she progressively turned to art to find new ways to highlight the complexity and awe-inspriing delicacy of nature.

Her current exhibition is the result of an invitation from the UNESCO-backed art and culture programme of the CHUV (Vaud university hospital in Lausanne) that includes a section dedicated to art & science. Together with Caroline de Watteville, who heads the programme, Lalie Schewadron has been devising for the past two years the best way to occupy the wall space in the busy hall.

The outcome is an exhibition that dances off the walls and stops passer-bys in their tracks.

Lalie Schewadron installation, Jonathan Cretton / CEMCAV / CHUV

Schewadron’s mixed media installations cover three types of works. White random etchings bite into large swaths of metal panelling, delicately printed layers of plexiglas play with textures and colours, tiny screens come alive with drifting shapes that dissolve and recompose (watch one of the Metamorphoses). They share the ability to absorb and tantalize.

“What I am doing is taking nature and passing it through the context of technology to produce something new,” Schewandron explains.

“For this exhibition I was inspired by Stephen Hawking’s book The Universe in a Nutshell and the idea that the universe has multiple histories,” she adds.

As a scientist, Lalie Schewadron reflects: “I naturally ask myself what another history of the universe might look like.” But as an artist, “I am more interested in showing the process of randomness and uncertainty in relation to growth and expansion.”

Lalie Schewadron grew up next to a particle accelerator in Israel. “I wanted to know all about those particles. But how can you understand something that you cannot see?” she asks rhetorically.

Studying for her degree in bio-chemistry, she took up an elective in physics but was mortified when she could not follow the study of quantum mechanics. Ready to drop the course, her teacher said “Well, Lalie, I have to tell you, Max Planck, the father of the quantum theory, didn’t understand it either. Nor did Einstein.” She remained in the course.

Moving to the US in 1996, she became a professional student for ten years, collecting a Master of Science in Management at Boston University, a degree from the Massachusetts College of Art, a post grad in studio art from Brandeis and finally a master of art in fine arts from the renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London.

As she become more and more involved in art, she was encouraged by a teacher at St. Martins to explore in greater depth the exciting area of technological art still in its pioneering stages.

New media art, commonly called ‘digital art’ uses media and communication technologies to produce new forms of contemporary art. The umbrella label extends to interactive installations, virtual reality and acoustic environments, projects with cyber space, robots and even biospheres.

But the reason Lalie Schewadron’s work is not confined to specialist environments is the deep aesthetic appeal of her pieces that transforms technology into something that is gentle and telling.

“I work by taking photographs or images from natural environments and progressively breaking them down into small building blocks. These building blocks are then recombined and digitally programmed using algorithmic random scripts to create a new animation,” Schewadron says.

Lalie Schewadron installation, with a layered plexiglass painting in the forefront

According to the artist, chance and randomness can create new life-forms and contribute to the “constant state of regeneration” that she is keen to illustrate.

Lalie Schewadron became a mother two months ago, only days after finalizing the works that are on show until 8 April.

And because events in her life appear to obey the laws of convergence, one of the largest multinationals in the region has just installed a major piece by her in a prime location of its headquarters.

Schewadron’s next exhibitions are planned at FPAC in the US and the Lucy Mackintosh Gallery in Switzerland (that exclusively represents the artist and has given its kind permission for the current exhbition).

More information on Lalie Schewadron website

Michèle Laird, née Haffner, was an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London, before moving to Switzerland and becoming an arts journalist.

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