Colin Rennie

Glass and Digital Artist



ATP-Synthase was commissioned in 2006 for the Design4Science exhibition curated by Shirley Wheeler.  it is based on the enzyme ATPase which is a pump responsible for charging up the ATP molecules they can transmit usable energy around our all of our cells.  The work done to solve the structure of the molecule won Sir John Walker a Noble Prize for chemistry partly due to his insight that the molecule acted like a little rotary motor and had a rotor that spun inside a mechanism.

ATP-Synthase alludes to movement, without moving.  As the form is made only from holes that are waterjet cut into sheets of 10mm float glass it is hard to get a full picture of the object.  When people view the work they move around up and down in order to gain an understanding of what they are looking at.  The closer the work is to the viewer the more reflections can be seen in between the layers and the more diffuse the edges become.  in a sense the movement is in the viewers perspective and understanding rather than in actually representing movement.

I was given the opportunity to go to the Lab for Molecular Biology in Cambridge and see some of the work that was being undertaken there first hand. I chose this fascinating little enzyme to work with and embarked on a process of research to learn as much as I could about how it worked, this preoccupation with the science behind the work took perhaps too much time.  Shirley had been very patient with my Lack of resolution and firm decision as to just what I was going to make.  She simply asked me how big a space it would occupy and then trusted me to fill it.  I plucked a meter cubed out of the air, it seemed right.  but from that point the choice clicked and I had the basis for the idea.  The meter is our central measure, it is roughly half way between the smallest possible plank scale and the cosmic scale.  It is a human scale and understood easily, it is also a convenient sculptural scale.  The molecule I was working on was about 9 million times smaller than this scale.