Art and Chemistry; a Touch of Distinction!


While chemistry is often wired in art and art in chemistry, the unlikely alliance is rarely seen in public. Combining the two, a group of National University of Lesotho (NUL) Chemical Technologists joined forces with the University of the Arts London (UAL) trained designer to conceive an extraordinary form of art that is sending shock-waves throughout the Mountain Kingdom!

So what happens when art and chemistry meet in public? The recipe can be described in a few words and, to be precise, in only FOUR words…. a touch of distinction!

“Ours is a distinctive form of art,” says Mr Lesia Matlali, a Research Assistant within the NUL Technology Incubation Group, simply known as TIG. “Most art products are based on all kinds of oils and plastic paints. Ours is unusual. It is based on earthen materials found in Lesotho! If you see our products live, not in photographs, you will be dumbfounded by a rare display of texture! Our art is based on carefully selected and patiently refined silica, a product of local stone.”

“People should know that we have around ten different forms of prominent stones in Lesotho,” added Mrs Marethabile Jane, another Research Assistant within the TIG. “Yet, the stones’ economic value is largely untapped! We are patiently creating a pathway for the use of these stones to the fullest. We are just getting started!”

Beyond the texture, the team is armed with something of a silver bullet in art. “We emphasize on 3-D effects on a 2-D platform whenever possible. That separates our approach from many within the local sphere,” said Mr Lintle Mafa, a Laboratory Technician whose role in the team is invaluable. The result of the 3-D emphasis is a collection of art that is amazingly inviting to the eye.

To provide a touch of distinction, all members of the team provide their inputs into the envisaged art. “We already have an advantage of using the unique materials we made ourselves in the art,” says Ms Neo Moeti, a University of the Arts London trained designer who relocated from London in the UK to join the TIG. “But we also know that just as a whole is bigger than the sum of its parts, the more views we have the better.”

“If one of us is inspired by something, and after brainstorming a little, we allow him or her to try it,” she continued. “We are often all surprised by the result!”

Ms Moeti further emphasized that a combination of colors is also chosen to create some forms of landscapes or to create anything in the observable universe.

However, they keep reminding themselves that this is art, so they are not bound by the rules. In fact, in their own words, “lack of rules can be the primary rule in the world of art.” Thus they are as comfortable in depicting a night sky full of stars in one piece, as they are in depicting African Women with calabashes on their heads in another piece.

They also venture into the abstract and they can feature both the real and abstract in one piece, whatever works for them. In their world of freedom, the sky is the limit!

Where do they get the inspiration? “Some of the art, like that depicting African women, is common among modern African artists and often look similar,” said Mr Sam Makhobole, a member of the team. “This art appears to be trending at the moment and we were inspired by it due to its undeniable appeal. African women are the hardest working women on earth. So the idea is to celebrate their innate beauty and confidence. Our team copied this trend and it works for us.”

However, some of the art, such as a seemingly abstract night sky with stars is purely their imagination. The innovators said they can wake up one day and make a completely abstract picture. the next thing, someone sees something in it and exclaims, “Wow! Is this a night-sky depiction?”

The team is hoping to start selling some of this art. They said they believe that this kind of art is likely to take the country by the storm. “To think that we can make this kind of art with the materials from the stone that we refine ourselves is fantastic!” Mr Setlhare Jane, also a group member concluded. “Soon, we hope this will create many jobs for the unemployed youths of our beloved Kingdom.”


This blog post was originally written by NUL Research and Innovations