Art in the Nanoscale – Investigating Sofie Loscher. {2012}

Fig 1: Untitled (Pins)

Recently I came across Kenneth and Stephen Deffeyes’ book “Nanoscale – Visualizing an Invisible World”[i] and it immediately struck a cord and reminded me of work by Sofie Loscher, which often highlights the unseen and stems from a scientific basis. The book outlines the properties of the top 50 structures too small for the eye to see, a topic I find fascinating, as does Sofie Loscher. I first met Sofie Loscher in Bergen-Norway. I arrived off the plane as an extremely tired grumpy soul. I had flown from London to Dublin a couple of days before to collect some art work for the first of five shows which made up MART’s ‘An Instructional’; a travelling art exhibition. The night before I met Sofie, I was asleep on a friends sitting room floor only to be woken at 3am as they decided to have a ‘few’ drinks at home, to cut a long story short I had no sleep when I arrived at about 11am in Bergen the following morning. I am usually quite obsessive compulsive when it comes to organising, but I had no map, nor figured out how to get to our destined accommodation; which was in fact a 32 bed dorm in an old YMCA. Our first conversation was like a blind date introduction, I was of course mortified for filling the shoes of a ‘good’ curator. Cut to a couple of days later we had bonded on setting up the group exhibition in Entrée; where we first had to dismantle a large art work made of concrete due to some sort for oversight from the gallery. Loscher’s work went on to feature in the full European and 2011 American MART tour.

In March 2012 I caught up with Sofie in her Studio in NCAD, where she is currently attending her Masters in Fine Art. Through this text I shall discuss her most recent sculptural and video installation work and explain how she has arrived in her current mode of practice; a study on equilibrium. In 2009 Loscher graduated from IADT with a Visual Arts Practice Degree, during which her work focused on Magnets and the Ready Made. Her work is concerned with the scientific investigation of forces within natural and artificial materials. Loscher wishes to showcase domestic objects in a subversive performance, connecting “the physical and visual, exploring issues of coercion, stability, attraction, repulsion and contradiction.”[ii]. Since graduating Loscher has shown her work in the RDS Dublin, Temple Bar Gallery, Entree-Bergen, Molesworth Gallery, Pop Up Art Loop-Chicago, Science Gallery Dublin, Drift Station Nebraska and Occupy Space in Limerick, while receiving grant awards from the Arts Council Ireland, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Culture Ireland.

In 2009 Loscher attended an artist residency in the north of Iceland that has influenced primarily her Paper Sculptures. After visiting a geyser on the island Loscher became fascinated with its spherical representation and transitory state. She explains; “I was interested in this temporal threshold state, of something that came before this huge explosion and before nothingness… I took that element of the threshold as a symbolic theme of my future work.”[iii] Also during this time Loscher experimented with Ferro fluids; a fluid made up of nanoscale ferromagnetic particles that become magnetized under the presence of a magnet, she wished to analyse the visualisation of the magnetic field the fluid creates. A method popularised by Japanese Artists Sachiko Kodama, Yasushi Miyajima and Minako Takeon in their work ‘Morpho Towers – Two Standing Spirals’ and ‘Protrude, Flow’[iv]. These tests occupy most of Loscher’s research and are an example of her obsession with conducting trials, which often do not formulate into an actual piece of work. Loscher at times seems to be wrapped up inside science literature, withdrawing elements that interest and allow experimentation.

Fig 2: “Substance-Absence”

I questioned why Loscher rarely names her work, a tribute non-artists sometimes look down upon; she explains that much of her work speaks “of the same thing – thresholds, liminality, if I am going to name one thing something, would I not have to name the other the same thing? I don’t really like to put a name on something, I feel that’s quite definite”.[v] It seems under a bit of pressure she is willing to cave on this methodology as she named her piece I curated for the ‘Invite or Reject’ exhibition in Pop Up Art Loop in Chicago in June 2011; “Substance-Absence”. For this show, due to MART’s budget restrictions, Loscher could not physically attend but her piece did arrive wrapped meticulously. After full assembly the piece stood just under one metre in height; a stack of A4 bright white paper formed its own little neat plinth.  A series of individually carved out circles, reducing in width one millimetre at a time, formed a half spherical dome like a miniature igloo, which set comfortably on the top left of the stack. To its diagonal opposite was its recessive twin, inversed and sunken in to the plinth (See Figure 2). The detail and craftsmanship was clear, the piece immediately encapsulates the viewer with intrigue and urge to touch, which of course was not permitted as Loscher does not use any adhesive in her paper sculptures, each piece of paper sits unbound on top of the next, gravity providing the only bond. The piece of course is a clear stylistic nod to her infatuation with the Icelandic geyser. Paper Sculpture, a technique mastered by artists such as Simon Schuber, Jen stark and Peter Callesen, is a highly technical craft and for Loscher to dip in and out of it emphasizes her skills and dexterity to move between disciplines.

Fig 3: (Untitled, Cornflour Video Still)

In the later half of 2011 Loscher produced her first video work (See Figure 3), the piece was shown in the Science Gallery Dublin as part of their ‘Surface Tension: The future of Water’ exhibition. The video is a recording of Loscher ‘running on water’. To get this Loscher explains; “I began to look at liquids that did not comply with certain rules or did not behave as you might expect liquids to behave. These are called Non-Newtonian Fluids as they don’t comply with Isaac Newton’s definition of what a liquid should be, as in that its viscosity changes based on temperature or heat, not stress or strain.”[vi] Loscher used a mixture of one part corn flour and one part water to create her Non-Newtonian liquid (a substance that alternates from a liquid to a solid through force). The liquid fills two thirds of the moving image and Loscher’s pounding feet the other. The video was projected on a block made from a different ratio of the same materials to act as a projection screen. The projection at floor level gave the appearance of an almost live bodiless Loscher running on the spot, while after approximately 5 minutes Loscher tires, stands and slowly sinks to the bottom as the solid substance returns to liquid. The elastic solid behaviour and existence of non-Newtonian activity can be seen in a wide range of everyday substances such as slurry, chocolates, ketchup, cosmetics, dairy products, foams, molten lava, peat and oil. Loscher utilized the common unfamiliarity of the ‘Why’s and How’s’ of the structure of her substance’s elements by analyzing its ‘Surface Tension’ and presenting the viewer with a visual and existential paradox. Loscher is continually interested in studying the ideas and balance behind equilibrium, tension and stability in her work. Loscher describes her investigation into equilibrium as an interest in “the oppositional forces and the competitive natures between the forces and how with a bit of precision they can cancel each other out. I am interested in how things are made stable by these competitive forces. I looked up aerodynamics, how planes can fly and how things so solid and heavy can remain in this state of equilibrium. It’s the same kind of theory, its same basis but how this can stay a float; I was working on that principle.”[vii] This fascination with equilibrium can be seen in one of Loscher’s main influences; Olafur Eliasson whose work utilizes the natural elements of water, light and air to engage with the viewer. Loscher, like Eliasson, is creating a subsidiary piece of work using the visible and invisible forces of nature to captivate and analyse the symmetry of our environments.

Fig 4: (Untitled, Balloon & Fan)

With this meeting I was given the opportunity to speak to Sofie about her current research, a prime opportunity to investigate how she operates her practice. During a stint at Broadstone Studios Loscher began working on a series of new experiments using latex balloons and their correspondence with gravity. Working with a three-foot latex balloon and a high velocity industrial fan Loscher began to study the theory of equilibrium and aerodynamics. The fan simply creates a low-pressure vacuum that holds the balloon in a fixed air stream. Loscher studied the different ways the balloon behaved by varying its size and alternate fan speeds. This piece had a short existence but was a turning point in Loscher’s latest work which has pushed her further into a science based artistic practice.

Fig 5: (Sketches of Balloon Work)

Currently Loscher remains infatuated with physics and is utilizing the elements of Magnetism, Helium and Nitrogen as the basis of her new work. Loscher is currently analysing the visual impact helium can have. No clear work has stemmed from these experiments however Loscher is fixated with how Helium can play a counteractive role against gravity. Loscher stated she “started working on the break down of these oppositional forces into units”[viii] by examining if she could create a balance with a Helium balloon and air filled balloon, which evidently failed due to Helium being lighter then air. Withstanding her ‘failure’ Loscher was still interested in the visual aspect and decided to invert the helium and air and analyze their new correspondence.Loscher is working on a Liquid Nitrogen experiment; testing an air filled latex balloon’s reaction in a vat of Liquid Nitrogen. On submersion the gases compress and when removed the gases expand.  In another she is working with a ceramic plate acting as a super conductor, which when is put in contact with liquid nitrogen it subsequently creates a magnetic field on which a magnet hovers and spins. Loscher’s work focuses on highlighting a concealed world which science has only recently begun to make perceptible. Loscher has begun to educate and bewilder her audience by achieving a catalogue of work and it will be interesting to see where Loscher takes her work from here. Whichever departure she decides to take, it is evident that Loscher has begun laying the foundations of a career in visualising the invisible world of the nanoscale.

Visit: for more information on the artist.

Published by Matthew Nevin – March 2012

Matthew Nevin is a full time student of ACW at NCAD. He is an active artist, and curator of the Irish Visual Arts Organization MART.



[i] Deffeyes, K.S, And Deffeyes S.E. 2009. Nanoscale: Visualizing an Invisible World. 1st ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

[ii] Loscher,S. 2012. Information. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18 March 12].

[iii] Loscher, S. Studio Visit Interview. Interviewed by Nevin, M. [recorded] NCAD, 13th March, 10:30am. 2012.

[iv] 2007. Morpho Tower / Two Standing Spirals (2007) Sachiko Kodama . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 March 12].

[v] Loscher, S. Studio Visit Interview. Interviewed by Nevin, M. [recorded] NCAD, 13th March, 10:30am. 2012.

[vi] As Previous

[vii] As Previous

[viii] As Previous

List of Images:

Images were sourced from and from the Artist.

Fig 1: Untitled (Pins)

Fig 2: “Substance-Absence”

Fig 3: (Untitled, Cornflour video still)

Fig 4: (Untitled, Balloon & Fan)

Fig 5: (Sketches of Balloon Work)

Fig 6: Balloon Experiment.