Crystallography – Al Munro

8 October – 6 November 2010


This is a small list, but almost any rock you pick up will consist mostly of three or four of these minerals. Minerals are recognised by their properties, and the more important of these are:-
  • shape
  • colour
  • lustre
  • hardness
  • streak
  • cleavage
Professor H. Messel. Science for High School Students. Nuclear Research Foundation, University of Sydney, 1965

Trays of rocks decorated with numbers drawn in white paint and intricately rendered diagrams in text books - we are both delighted and puzzled by the information rocks contain.

Al Munro builds on this engagement with the hard core of our planet, looking at the systems, codes, particles and atoms of geology. She catalogues and chronicles crystallography using her own visual system of stitch and drawn line. Munro replicates the beauty of the object with a visual analysis using colour, sparkle and dust particles scattered lightly onto and into the work.

Munro mines the depth of the human response to rock (a sexier description would be quartz, topaz, diamond), the cool linear expression of diagrammatic representations, the coding of the elements and the desire to understand pre-history in order to predict future outcomes for the planet.

The description of shape, lustre, cleavage and colour are held in the cottons and sequins, executed in fine needlepoint, replicating the structure of the crystal held in the palm of the hand. The small, delicate needlepoint’s are as alluring as the rocks themselves, if not more so, as they combine not only the hardness of rock but the softness of thread combined with a domestic sensibility. The sparkles and colours beg us to hold them, to covet them for our collections, just as many fossickers the world over scramble over rocky escarpments to find rare specimens.

Munro’s screen prints are her own graphic renditions of scientific drawings, the printed image a new version of diagrams, only this time larger and bolder with an intensity and surety far more compelling than any image found in geological texts. Consistent with the needlepoint’s, the screen prints describe the relationship of science to everyday life. The gaps of knowledge are open like the knitted weave waiting for further discoveries to be coded and catalogued into the matrix, where new crystals may well be embedded. 

With the needle instead of the fossickers pick, Munro makes her own discoveries; the dust of the universe sprinkled lightly onto the prints, the diagrams translated via needlepoint into ideograms and the codes into colours.

Crystallography is the artist’s interpretation of scientific data expressed in a way that is as curious and engaging as the science of crystallography itself.

Photo: Creative Image Photography.