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Zahra Jlayer
Zahra Jlayer Artist & Physician Pathologist
16 Aug 2018

Interview By Kate Schwarting, Programs Manager

KS: How has your work as a pathologist and former medical examiner influenced your abstract work?

ZJ: The same way that eyes and brain of a radiologist trained to interpret information from shades between white and black, the eyes and brain of a pathologist also trained to interpret information from shades of pink and purple most of the time, at least so far!
As you know these shade are the result of staining the tissue by hemotoxilin and eosin stains.

Seeing individual cells in cytology specimens or a pattern of aggregated cells in different tissues was always a form of art for me that I enjoyed staring at for long periods of time. For me those are a foot print of nature, and I believe the origin of all beauty is in the nature.

When I started pour painting several years ago, recreation of the patterns I was observing during microscopic work was appealing to me and gave me the freedom of choosing any color that I wanted not just shades of pink and purple.

What I was observing by high power field microscopy resembled the cell formation in paint pouring and what I was observing by low power field microscopy resembled marbleization patterns.

KS: Though your paintings are abstract, elements of them give the viewer a sense of the microscopic. Can you describe your process and what controls you place on the medium to reach the end result?

ZJ: What I do is called fluid art. I dilute the acrylic paint with water and different pouring mediums. There are few of techniques that most fluid artists use to pour paint on the canvas or any other flat surface.

The science behind all of these techniques looks the same. It’s all about fluid dynamics. The paint with greater density goes down due to gravity and the paint with less density comes up. On the other hand, the viscosity of paint determines how far it spreads before it dries.

Predicting the result of mixing different colors with different density and viscosity is so complicated and sounds impossible. The reality is that fluid and its dynamic properties create the painting. But developing an understanding of how the material flows is possible through trial and error. A good visual artist to some extend can calculate and predict what he/she want to do but always there are surprises to be expected.

Soon after starting the pour, the paint starts to dry and the patterns are preserved on the flat surface. It’s important to be fast especially in larger pieces.

The most used patterns in my paintings are cell formation and marbleization and, it’s the cell formation that gives the sense of microscopic picture to the viewer eyes.

KS: What are your views on the relationship between science and art?

ZJ: Traditionally people believed art and science are 2 different disciplines. The reality is that there is no border between art and science, also artists and scientists have a lot in common.

They are both curious people who like to have better understanding of the world around them. Both try their best to communicate with the surroundings and share their observations and discoveries. In that way both believe they can have positive impact on their community and environment.

New technologies, computer science and all our daily used apps are the best example of merging art and science which are not separable from modern life.

Also I believe if individual artist back up his/her art with science and individual scientist use the beauty of art in his/her communication with others, the whole world start to have a better understanding of each other.

KS: What projects or exhibitions are you currently involved in?

ZJ: Currently I’m completing the last days of a one month art residency and exhibition hosted by Arts Brookfield in Manhattan’s West Village.Also, I am working on “Art for Peace” project which is a juried exhibition sponsored by New Rochelle Art Association in October. Art pieces in this exhibit will show how negotiation, tolerance and mediation can promote peace on a micro and macro level.


Plus my solo exhibit in December approaches fast!

For more of Zahra’s work visit her website or follow her on TwitterInstagram, and