By Conrad Floryan
These photographs were not taken under a microscope. This point is essential to fully appreciate Light Forms, Polish-Canadian photographer and biochemist Ela Kurowska’s compilation of kaleidoscopic images that conjure a poignant wonder of life—from the atom to universes abroad.
The compositions have been meticulously handcrafted from translucent organic gels through a secret process Ela developed using her biochemistry background. While they appear as microscopic photographs, they are in fact life-sized, three-dimensional creations. The images evoke a peek into the creation process of life, as if God was taking photographs of His work for future reference. While the compositions express different types of creation—the formation of space bodies, cellular reproduction, and seas and vegetation emerging and covering the Earth–they’re all part of a cohesive vision depicting the beautiful process of transforming darkness into life. God is our greatest artist, and Ela’s creations harken to some of his best work. If you’re going to borrow from other artists, you might as well borrow from the best.
Light Forms is divided into subgroups that focus on specific visual aspects of the life struggle—bubbles foaming from chemical reactions, interstellar turbulence, and primitive organisms. Many images appear three-dimensional, especially those that have been photographed from oblique angles. They’re vibrant and seem like privileged snapshots of a longstanding and ongoing energy. Graphically, they cover a vast spectrum that includes rigid rock-like formations, ripples, fluid masses, and ethereal radiance. This variety conjures the complexity of life—both at the fledgling stage as well as the awesome diversity of our developed universe. Life—a force that instigates existence and propels its persistence—manifests itself in boundless variations as it adapts to its surroundings.
It’s awe-inspiring to behold the complex play of light and dark and fantastical colors within the masses of light that radiate the enveloping darkness. The mood is variable—certain images present an isolated energy in a cold universe while other compositions are kinetic. They produce a sense of awe by evoking powerful processes beyond human control that have been occurring long before we came to be.
Compositely, the images suggest an otherworldliness. Although they are mostly visually subjective, they also feel like concrete depictions of tangible foreign entities that only seem immaterial because we aren’t yet familiar enough to qualify them. One of the alien worlds that comes to mind is the mysterious realm in the deepest ocean depths, replete with iridescent and eccentric creatures. Even further, the compositions plunge beneath the surface of limited human perception and conjure a visual representation of mind expansion as we try to attune our senses to a fuller spectrum of existence. It’s as if the images are depicting colors and forms that the human eye isn’t trained to notice, just how our ears only hear a small range of the aural frequencies we are constantly bombarded with.
Although the compositions feel scientific as they suggest mathematical curves and petri dish vistas, they also question the physical laws of our material world. Several images contain masses that are seemingly floating in empty dark space, but this empty space produces a reflection of these masses, which gives the emptiness a counterintuitive rigidity. Imagine knocking your hand against the night sky just like a door. Light Forms opens this door to reveal wondrous beauty.