If we cast our minds back to November 1895, to Würzburg in Germany, we can see the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen working in his laboratory where he discovered invisible rays, generated by electrostatic discharges from within a glass vacuum tube. When he accidentally stepped into the line of rays, he was startled to see his own skeleton shimmering on the fluorescent screen. Within a year these X-rays, as he named them, were being used by clinicians all around the world. In recent decades, X-ray images have emerged as an art form.
Arie van’t Riet worked for most of his life as a medical physicist, having graduated in radiation physics at the Delft University of Technology. He became an X-ray artist by accident after assisting a friend scan an oil painting. He subsequently specialised in “bioramas,” where animal specimens co-exist with plants to which he adds colour (see left, © the artist). He commented, “This gives me the opportunity to visualise the inner beauty of the animals, their complexity and functionality.”
Another exponent of X-ray art is the Slovenian Stane Jagodič who is best known for his enigmatic montages. He is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Art in Ljubljana who, in the early 1970s, found himself “interested not only in the exterior image of the human figure but also in the internal anatomic structures.” Jagodič is an award-winning and creative artist who is also a writer, columnist, and editor. Seen at right is a montage simply entitled “Silver Treasure” (© the artist).
Hugh Turvey, who trained at the Royal Berkshire College of Art and Design in the UK, fuses art and science, working primarily in the field of X-ray technology. In an interview with National Geographic, he said: “I am an experimentalist and I think in images. Density defines my images – very big or very mall objects challenge the technology and physics.” Among Turvey’s favourite images is a coloured X-ray of his wife’s foot in a stiletto shoe entitled “Femme Fatale” (© the artist).
Another British X-ray artist is Nick Veasey who commented, “We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that beauty is more than skin deep. By revealing the inside, the quintessential element of my art speculates upon what the manufactured and natural world really consists of.” Recognising that X-rays are dangerous, many of his images – such as the VW Beetle seen right (© the artist) – are created in a bespoke concrete bunker. Röntgen would surely have approved of these artworks created with his invisible rays!