Shane Hope: Painting with Molecular Models

Painting with Molecular Models

It’s no small feat that Shane Hope’s abstract Species-Tool-Beings “paintings” look like mutant petri dishes growing out of control, or the ruins of mini coral reefs, its polyps fecund with color. Hope goes through elaborate measures to make the paintings, which are actually 3D-printed programmatically mutated molecular models. They are the 3D evolution of his 2D printed “Qubit-Built Quilts" series. In both series, he appropriated “nanomolecular machine components, junk DNA sculptural origami, and novel inorganic material models such as sheets of graphene, bucky-balls, and carbon nanotubes.” He also scours the Protein Data Bank, a collection of CAD files used for biomolecular research, modifying these models with Python script to make fantastical forms out of them.

The latest evolution in his artistic repertoire is his “Upon Graphene” series – a collection of 3D pieces, printed non-stop from beginning to end, depicting a sheet of graphene; largely considered to be the next computing candidate after silicon. His work always has been primarily informed by, in his own words, “technoprogressive, Transhumanist, H+, hard sci-fi and Singularitarian ideas.” He considers his work a form of Future Studies; correcting for, or problematizing typical depictions of the future.

So is the rather different looking “Compile-A-Child” series based on similar ideas. “This series of drawings appears to be faux-naïf speculative-vernacular picture-texts by transhuman mind-children that haven't been built yet. Positively innocent and playful, it's actually from the same academically rigorous transhumanist ideas that I’m filtering out all the fodder for them.”

Even more radically different are his "Temporally Premoved drawings" – hand-penned "drawcuments"; title placards describing future-dated speculative art that can't yet technically exist. Hope excitedly states, “Each has appended to it a time-travel-logged ‘temporally premoved’ tab (a wordplay on traditional "temporarily removed" museum loan/conservation notifications), signed by me as curator/conservator. Paragraphs were auto-generated using apps into which I injected my own speculative phraseologies, thereby rendering their read rather uncannily spam-bot-like.”

These days, Hope spends most of his time abusing his home-built 3D printers, endearingly named Percept Pus Pandora, Qubit Quacker Quinn, Borganic Blobjecthoodlum Beulah and Foglet Fabber Fidel. Pointing at one of them he explains, “This gal here printed the parts for that guy over there,” and then poetically continues, “3D printing is like a gateway drug. I’ve been hand-hobbling these RepRap 3D printers together from scratch, not only to materialize my molded molecular models, but also exhibit expressionistic potential and have them behave more like painting assistants. It’s especially important to problematize prototyping at this point to expose that which isn’t exhausted or collapsed into fully exploitable usability in the Functionalist sense. So I craft custom print settings to print more like painting, flirt with epic-print-fails, and allow irregular parts likely to all but muck up my printers. The goal generally is to glean artifacts that aesthetically accentuate hot-mess molecular modeling and 3D printing, revealing how each translates one another with tensions that ‘overheat’ both media.” Combining traditional painting with sci-fi DNA science, Hope takes painting to strange, speculative places.

Hope is represented by Winkelman Gallery in New York.