Katinka Matson's "Spiders", in Phaidon's Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, "featuring 300 of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical images ever"
Phaidon has just published Plant: Exploring the Botanical World a visually stunning survey celebrating “the most beautiful and pioneering botanical images ever” from around the world across all media—from murals in ancient Greece to a Napoleonic-era rose print and cutting-edge scans. Included are botanical works by Carl Linnaeus, Leonardo da Vinci, Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Edge co-founder and resident artist, Katinka Matson.
"Spiders," first exhibited by Edge. is also one of the images in the book featured in the first serial excerpt appearing in major international news publications...to date, The Guardian and LiFO.com (Athens) where it is the lede image.
“This huge canvas by New York-based artist Katinka Matson uses magnification to emphasize the spider-like forms of petals of the spider chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium). At the start of the 21st century Matson developed a new way of portraying flowers by using a flatbed scanner, Adobe Photoshop and an ink-jet printer. Slowly scanning the flowers captures their exact appearance, without the distortion created by a single-lens photograph.” —The Guardian
Her work has been featured on Edge since 2002.
[Further reading: Kevin Kelly, "Introduction to 'Twelve Flowers'"; "On Scanner Photography."]
True Stem and True Flowering
March 31, 2018
Rarely do flowers shine so strongly as in the photography of the artist Katinka Matson who uses flatbed scanners, avoiding the fuzziness with which cameras map reality.
Coincidences are the key moments in the history of science (the discovery of gravity, penicillin, X-rays, Teflon pans). They are more deliberate in art (Jackson Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, John Cage). Because New Yorker Katinka Matson works on the border between art and science, it seems consistent that her work began with such a lucky mishap. That occurred some 15 years ago, when she put some flowers on a flatbed scanner in her office and pressed the start button. The flowers were crushed. The result was nevertheless startling. Because scanners do not capture points of light through a lens like cameras, but scan them pixel by pixel, the images had a sharpness and luminosity she'd never seen before. The extreme clarity of images was especially unique. Human's visual perception has incorporated the distortions and blurring of camera lenses when looking at printed or filmed reality. In Katinka Matson's work those distortions are mostly absent. The science historian George Dyson described the effect: "Vision evolved to attract insects, and by removing the lens Katinka has taken us back to this direct connection between the flower and the deepest layers of the visual brain. And that makes it so amazing."
Katinka Matson experimented for five years until she developed a technique that allowed her to place flowers on a flatbed scanner, and scan them undamaged, against a black background that made the flowers even more luminous. She also realized the photographs were strongest as Iris Giclee prints on 3' x 4' canvases. "Hyperrealism" is more reminiscent of the botanical illustrations made by Maria Sibylla Merian made in the 18th century as well as other artists of that era. The aesthetic here emerges from the scientific view and precise technique, less from the creative sensibility of the artist. The art book publisher Phaidon, recently published the German edition of the comprehensive work Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, featuring "300 of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical images ever". Katinka Matson's photography is presented here as the apogee of a line in art history that prefers the faithful portrayal of nature to the aesthetic ideas of artists.
A few weeks ago, Katinka Matson opened an exhibition in Hollywood of her new series "White Flowers" at The Eric Buterbaugh Gallery, which celebrates all things floral. Like the best in their fields in Los Angeles, Buterbaugh is not only a gallerist, but also the florist to stars, supplying flowers to Demi Moore, Madonna and Paul McCartney, not to mention the celebrations of the British Royal Family. At the opening, however, there were almost as many scientists as artists and stars. This is because Katinka Matson's main occupation is as a literary agent who represents scientists who write books for the general public. She is also co-founder of the science debate forum Edge.org, a circle that also includes Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of the flatbed scanner. Just a coincidence. ■
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Katinka Matson's flowers are magnificent and surreally real
SPIDER FLOWERS: Katinka Matson's Scanner Art Fascinates With Intensive Clarity
August 1, 2005
Ever since Marcel Duchamp mounted the front wheel of a bycicle onto a bar stool, the anarchic use of everyday technologies has been part of the standard repertoire of Modern Art. Usually such works question our perception by distorting reality. The flower images by the New York artist Katinka Matson are different for their exactness and completeness: the surreal aura of her pictures come from their enormous clarity. The flowers seem to radiate from the inside and the details are recognizable into the last fiber as though they were being viewed under a magnifying glass.
Katinka Matson may not be the first to experiment with this approach to imagery. In the 60s, photo-realistic painters played with this kind of hyper-realism in much the same way as photographers of today such as Andreas Gursky or Loretta Lux.
What's new, however, is the technology that Katinka Matson uses to make her pictures. Instead of oilpaints or a camera she uses a regular scanner. And because the light scanning of such an office machine eliminates even the easiest distortion, she develops a naturalistic effect, which questions our way of seeing, because our eyes have long adjusted themselves long ago to the distortions of photo and movie cameras.
Science historian George Dyson described the effect of
Katinka Matson's pictures: "Visual processing (in humans
and other organisms) is characterized by layers: not only the
layers in the retina, behind the retina, in the visual cortex,
and finally in our consciousness and our culture as we
interpret the ultimate results. There are also evolutionary
layers, and the lensless, scanner-like visual system of the i
nsect still lingers, unseen but essential, in some of those
layers between light and brain. One of the reasons—besides
sheer artistry—that Katinka Matson's work resonates so
strongly with us is that the insect-like vision that results
from scanning direct-to-CCD runs so much deeper in us
than vision as processed through a lens. By removing the
lens, Katinka's work bypasses an entire stack of added layers and takes us back to when we saw more by looking at less."
It began with a coincidence. While scanning a regular photo Katinka Matson put a bunch flowers on the scanner. "I was rather frustrated that day. But the very first flower scans had already inspired me," she said. She has no idea if she was the first, or only, artist to experiment with this new technology. But she was the first to perfect the art of scanning to the point of gaining recognition as an artist. In 2002, The New York Times Magazine included her work in its annual year-end edition of the big ideas of the year.
For the past five years she has experimented with techniques and materials, until she found the perfect combination of creating images through her scans, working on them with Adobe Photoshop, and presenting them as Iris prints on water color paper, which are mounted on aluminum. Because Iris prints are limited as to size, and are, in addition, extremely sensitive, in her newest series of white spider flowers, she uses a new digital printing process on large canvases which adds even more power to the painting-like structure of her images. She normally makes thirty forty different scans from a set of flowers, before she finds an image that interests her. And recognizing the right state of the dessication of the flower can take days of observation. "Fresh flowers are pretty," she says, "but they only become interesting when they begin to show the first signs of withering."
Katinka Matson's "Spiders" is on exhibition in Munich this week, her first work on canvas, in the context of the Bitfilm Festival for Digital Media in the Bundesgartenschau (German National Garden show). A slide show projection of earlier work is also being presented.
Copyright © sueddeutsche.de GmbH/Süddeutsche Zeitung Gmbh
The flower images by the New York artist Katinka Matson are different for their exactness and completeness: the surreal aura of her pictures come from their enormous clarity. The flowers seem to radiate from the inside and the details are recognizable into the last fiber as though they were being viewed under a magnifying glass
November 26, 2004
PERSONAL JOURNAL — Time Off — Calendar:
Europe's Guide to Leisure & Arts Activity
AMSTERDAM: Van Gogh; BILBOA: Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci, FLORENCE: Michelangelo; FRANKFURT: Rembrandt, Gaugin, Degas, Munch; GENOA: Matson; WARSAW: Kandinsky, Chagall.
GENOA / Art / 'Katinka Matson: Flowers' features incredibly lifelike images of lilies and tulips, with every drop of dew and grain of pollen magnified. The works by the American artist aren't photographs, but were created by placing cut flowers on an ordinary office scanner and printing high-resolution images.
Festival della Scienza, Palazzo Rosso; 8 Via Garibaldi; Until Nov. 28.
November 5, 2004
PALAZZO ROSSO Photographic Exhibition of American Artist
The flowers of Katinka Matson "grow" in the computer
by L. Gu
I was struck by the formal quality of the images and I was intrigued by all the implicit connections among the art and sciences that her work is based upon.
Katinka's works are reminiscent of the works of
Mapplethorpe or of Georgia O'Keeffe. They're also
interesting from a botanical point of view because the
technique she uses makes visible a lot of details that
would be otherwise be hard to grasp." [continue...]
Katinka's works are reminiscent of the works of Mapplethorpe or of Georgia O’Keeffe.
November 4, 2004
Discovered in a digital universe
by Haydn Shaughnessy
One of the highlights of the festival is the first European exhibition of Katinka Matson, an artist working within the digital aesthetic, whose work is attracting attention and praise in the
Joyce, in Finnegans Wake, joined the same attack on
language's invisible restraints, more with a sense of
accomplishment than with the frustration that isolated
Wittgenstein. But Joyce left us no more enlightened. As
with Wittgenstein's work, the message of Finnegans
Wake is ultimately that we are not sophisticated enough
to understand beyond our linguistic rules.
The Katinka Matson exhibition gives a clue as to where we
might look for answers today. Matson's exhibits are
visually compelling still-lifes, produced not through the
physical application of materials (painting, drawing, printing) or photography. [continue...]
Matson's exhibition is being staged at Palazzo Rosso, a museum with an art collection that includes the work of painters such as Van Dyck and Caravaggio. She is one of a new breed of artists who are utilising technology in ways that alter, and perhaps diminish, the artist's role—but to great effect
Technologically scented Flowers
NEW YORK — KATINKA MATSON
Not painted, nor photographed with a digital camera, but simply marvellous. The American artist, Katinka Matson uses new technologies to create images of such Natural beauty that they instill in the observer new perceptions...an incredible harmonious blend of colors and shapes.
30 October, 2004
Such is precisely the strength and peculiarity of new
technologies: a simple scanner can become an expressive,
even artistic instrument.
In Palazzo Rosso we come across images realized by U.S.
artist Katinka Matson: she sets bunches of freshly cut
flowers on a special scanner. Thus she manages to create
images, with a procedure similar to some extent to Man
Ray's gamma rays. In her glossy color "xerox copies" we
admire sensuously shaped, almost erotic tulips, peonies
and lilies that are reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe's
With a procedure similar to some extent to Man Ray's gamma rays, in her glossy color digital images we admire sensuously shaped, almost erotic tulips, peonies and lilies that are reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings.
October 28, .2004
Guarda che scienza
Fascinating cosmic numbers
One of the creations of the artist American Katinka Matson: the naturalistic photos of petals, flowers, steles, fungi and other "objects" are exhibited at the Festival.
October 17, 2004
"Science Festival: Twelve days dedicated to the pleasures of knowledge and ingenuity"
by Annik Le Guerer
Twelve days dedicated to the pleasures of knowledge and creativity. This event was all about learning through having fun, and recognising that the new disciplines must become an integral part of culture – and of political and business culture too. Scientific research has nothing static about it; it is based on, and for, continuous change, the constant proposal of concepts and paradigms. This spirit must be recovered by the entire productive system, otherwise it will miss the train of progress.
THE YEAR IN IN IDEAS—2002
By Paul Tough
December 15, 2002
SCANNER PHOTOGRAPHY • Many of the old rules of photography have been shattered in recent years by the introduction of cheap digital cameras and image manipulation programs like Photoshop. But one assumption has remained unquestioned: every photograph requires a camera, and every camera needs a lens.
Not anymore. This year, two different artists working independently, one on each coast, mounted exhibits that were remarkably similar: a collection of dazzling images of cut flowers, "photographed" not with a camera but with the moving lens of a flatbed scanner, the kind used in offices every day.
Mark McAfee Brown, an artist and designer in Mountain View, Calif, displayed his "Night Blooms" in a show at the Palo Alto Research Center this fall. Katinka Matson, a
literary agent and artist in New York, exhibited "Forty
Flowers" and "Twelve Flowers" on her Web site beginning
in January. Both artists create their images by placing
flowers and other natural objects on top of a 12-by-
17-inch scanner - they leave the top raised to avoid
crushing the flowers - and then scanning the arrangement
from below. The method creates a digital image that is
vivid and precise: a photograph that requires neither film
Behind this new style of photography is the idea that the
moving wand of a scanner can capture a sense of perspective, a richness of color and a level of detail that a single, static lens cannot. Back when scanners were used only to reproduce flat images like prints or documents or book pages, people assumed that images created on a scanner would lack depth. In fact, the opposite is true: the flowers look thick and voluptuous, and the images seem almost three-dimensional. Petals touching the screen appear crisp, while ones raised an inch or two are ghostly shadows, fading into blackness.
As the moving lens slides along the surface of one of Matson's tulips, it is able to view the flower from all sides; her floral pictures are so intense that looking at them, you almost get the feeling that you are able to peer around the flowers themselves. Another advantage: the distortion that a single lens inevitably creates disappears - details at the corners of these pictures are as sharp and clear as those at the center.
Kevin Kelly, an author and photographer who often addresses the confluence of nature and technology, writes in an introductory essay on Matson's Web site that she "is at the forefront of a new wave in photography, or what we should call new imaging." Kelly invites viewers to "imagine a painter who could, like Vermeer, capture the quality of light that a camera can, but with the color of paints. That is what a scanner gives you. Now imagine a gifted artist like Matson exploring what the world looks like when it can only see two inches in front of its eye, but with infinite detail!" PAUL TOUGH
As the moving lens slides along the surface of one of Matson's tulips, it is able to view the flower from all sides; her floral pictures are so intense that looking at them, you almost get the feeling that you are able to peer around the flowers themselves.
On Scanner Photography
About Katinka Matson [2.23.03]
THE REALITY CLUB: George Dyson, William H. Calvin, Nicholas Humphrey, Colin Tudge
[ continue... ]
One of the reasons — besides sheer artistry — that Katinka Matson's work resonates so strongly with us is that the insect-like vision that results from scanning direct-to-CCD runs so much deeper in us than vision as processed through a lens. By removing the lens, Katinka's work bypasses an entire stack of added layers and takes us back to when we saw more by looking at less.
Finally, about Katinka's flowers! I hope you take a long
look at our "photo" essay (really a "scanner" essay) of a
few of Ms. Matson's remarkable studies. (I regret that to
publish her work on our website, we had to make dumbed
-down petite versions.) When printed on large paper or
shown, as they should also be, on high-definition
television screens, Katinka's scanned creations are
towering, dense and richly hued. For several years, using
the same digital flatbed scanners most of us simply copy
documents with, this Manhattan-based artist unlocked
the simple elegance of nature. Without cameras or
special lenses, Katinka Matson captures the unfiltered
raw vibrancy of lilies, tulips, and daisies. Closer to painting
with nature than to containing and "capturing" it, Ms.
Matson's work is raw, striking, if not shocking. There is
honest power in this fusion of technology with nature and
it's made possible by an inkjet printer and a humble scanner.
Towering, dense and richly hued...without cameras or special lenses, Katinka Matson captures the unfiltered raw vibrancy of lilies, tulips, and daisies. Closer to painting with nature than to containing and "capturing" it, Ms. Matson's work is raw, striking, if not shocking. There is honest power in this fusion of technology with nature and it's made possible by an inkjet printer and a humble scanner.
Flowers, phtographic art with the scanner
Is there such a thing as an aesthetics of the digital
technology, whether hardware or software? Often the
answer is affirmative, as when one analyzes the work of
Katinka Matson, American artist, who has succeeded in
extracting a full poetics from the skilful use of the scanner.
Her floral compositions, visible on the site at a decent
resolution, show not only petals, stems and pistils but the
rhythm and depth that they can express if arranged in a certain position, revealing an identity unsuspected to a naturalistic approach.
Katinka Matson, American artist, who has succeeded in extracting a full poetics from the skilful use of the scanner.