A new exhibition has opened at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City. Ommatida Muralis, which runs until April 16, is a new interactive installation by Winnipeg artists Chantal Dupas and Andrew John Milne.

“It’s a rich experience to have a display of two, first-time collaborating artists,” says Interim Gallery Director Meg Walker. “It’s two perspectives and two art practices coming together.”

Andrew John Milne is a self-taught artist with a background in mechanical, electrical and software design, contemporary dance, photography and film. In his work, Milne uses cutting edge media together with old technologies and materials, in constructing artistic, yet functional devices.

Chantal Dupas is primarily a painter, although she has worked with various sculptural materials ranging from bronze to ceramics, and is now moving towards video and lab-based new media techniques.

She became interested in the world of botany during a residency at Riding Mountain National Park. She recently enrolled in botany and microscopy courses, volunteered at the University of Manitoba’s Herbarium and is currently Artist-In-Residence at the Belmonte Laboratory at the university.

When Dupas had the idea to venture into new territory and create microscopic paintings from tinted cross-sections of houseplants, she approached Milne to build microscopes in order to view her scientific art.

They went to the local Dollar Store and bought cheap lenses to play with. Milne then made moulds out of wax, built wooden frames and incorporated three lenses into every piece, creating something that acts and looks like a microscope, but with a distinctly old fashioned, Victorian flavour.  

“I’ve always been interested in optics and performance-engaging technology,” says Milne during the artist’s talk before the grand opening at the Gallery. “And I have a nostalgia for the Victorian era. It was a culture of invention and I’m drawn to that.”

Meanwhile, Dupas sliced plants into one cell thick fragments, stained them with colour, then mounted them on slides to be viewed through Milne’s creations.

“Colour is the communicator,” she says in her artist’s statement.

Each of the three lenses offers a different experience. The tactility of the microscopes is inviting, offering the viewer accessibility in different layers.  

Milne says this is why he was excited about the project, although normally he does not collaborate with other artists. He likes the idea that the displays can be approached and interpreted in many different ways, either technically, artistically, physically by touching the microscopes, or visually.

“They’re all different types of art,” he says. “When you touch something, you have a relationship with it, you’re implicated. A visual experience is more removed, conceptual – you touch it remotely. You become what the technical system is in order to use them.

“It’s a revolutionary action to mess with technology and subvert it. I want to critically engage technology and see what it really is.”

Ommatidia Muralis is showing at the ODD Gallery until April 16, 2016.