Interview: The Beauty of the Cosmos with Yiannis Savva

Dr Yiannis Savva is an abstract artist exploring the ninth dimension in his paintings which are inspired by his work as a molecular biologist. Fascinated with the workings of genetic regulation, specifically at the RNA level, Yiannis relocated to the United States from Cyrpus at the age of 20 to pursue his studies and received a BA and Ph.D in molecular biology. He remains active in the scientific field at Brown University where he is both an investigator and instructor.

When did you begin making art?

Three years ago I started experimenting with various acrylic media. I have always been fascinated with paint fluid dynamics and how the laws of nature can act as the best medium for generating abstraction via fluid art.

Did you have any formal training?

No, I am a self taught abstract artist. However, I spent a lot time reading about fluid dynamics, properties of various acrylic paints and color theory.

I use different acrylic media and a variety of mediums and gels, as well as various oils and alcohols to generate a plethora of textures that highlight the beauty of the micro- and macro-cosmos.

Most of my paintings incorporate a unique fluid painting technique that triggers Rayleigh-Taylor instability gradients which allow the formation of aesthetically appealing patterns.

Has painting always been your chosen medium?

Painting has been always the medium for expressing my scientific visions. People like variety in color. Therefore, I have chosen painting as a way to pass on my vision of this world to other people.

How do your scientific education and work inform your creations?

As a scientist I am lucky to observe the beauty of the molecular world through microscopy. However, not many people have the opportunity to do so. Thus, I always strive to highlight the beauty of the molecular world through my paintings.

Through my paintings, I strive to bring life to the unique microenvironments observed through confocal microscopy, allowing the unseen to be observed by all.

As a scientist, I am fortunate enough to observe the beauty of this world at the cellular level through the usage of high technological advancements that are readily available in my line of work. What I observe daily, under the microscope, is mostly the unseen abstract expression of the microcosmos.

What elements of your art are spiritual?

The beauty of the cosmos at the micro and macro level.

What is the ninth dimension and how do you explore it in your work?

String theory assumes that we live in a multi-dimensional universe. Some of those dimensions, including the ninth one, are really really small and according to the theory there is no way for us to interact with it or even know its contents. To me the ninth dimension reminds me that the molecular world that exists in laboratories does not in the real world for most.

Do you ever find it frustrating to try and express the inexpressible in physical form?

Yes, most of the time things don’t usually work out the way I envisioned them since generating a painting that takes advantage of the laws of nature to generate aesthetically appealing patterns means a single deviation from a particular variable can have a vast amount of possible outcomes. Many of these outcomes are not what I strive for.

Does it matter to you that people understand your work?

Not really. It is not about understanding my work. Is more about intriguing the human mind.

When we look under a microscope, or outside the window of a space station, what we are actually seeing is our lives in abstraction within a physical universe with no beginning or any end.

My current body of work represents the living human abstraction within our entire cosmos: from micro to macro.

Why do you think we are so compelled to understand more about the mystery of the space that we exist in?

The unknown and the not understood are human fascinations, always. As long as there is scientific thought, humanity will strive towards understanding the laws of the universe and our place in it. The fact that the universe is in us in the form of elementary particles generated by supernova explosions further highlights a connection between the universe and humanity.

How does honouring our desire to know more and look beyond what we can see enhance our experience of life on Earth?

Because the more we realise about the vastness of the cosmos we can quickly come to the conclusion that our lives are nothing more than a brief history of time here on this planet, in a corner of a galaxy that moves at unimaginable speeds within the universe.

My philosophy is to be brave enough to embark on novel experiences here on planet Earth that transcend the ordinary.