Sketches of Scents


Yesterday I discovered my favorite plants. The ones which smell I have been chasing for ages. I clearly remember their smells embedded in my mind but and the impossibility to find their source; was it a tree, a shrub, a flower or a grass. The smell was floating randomly above the ground and could be experienced from all directions.

It was a long chase. It took me a couple of years to come into its trail again.

The very first time I encountered  the scent was in the South Coast of Portugal, in the dunes, at night. The vivid, crisp smell stayed with me like a dream I wish to recall again and again.

3 years later I felt the hint of the smell in the West Coast of Ireland but could not point to its source. This time the smell was very weak and while breathing deeply I felt drowsy and lost. After awhile the smell has gone or I could not find it anymore. How frustrating, I was walking up and down along that country road near the sea like a mad man.

Yesterday, I was cycling along the beach on my way home in East Scotland. The air was hot and heavy: awaiting for a summer storm to come. The sea and the sky looked purple in the late sunset, animated by the crushing white and the silver shine of the waves.

I was cycling along the houses and gardens and… the scent Was there. I pushed my bike from the road slowly and let it to lean on the nearest fence. The joy of a hunter following his senses forward the unknown species, immobilized near by, waiting to be discovered after such a long time of search, sweet prey fulfill me completely. I know that plants Cannot move, not quickly enough but the air that carries their smell Can and can mislead me in my adventure but not this time.

That day in my neighborhood I discovered two plants with the scent of the Mediterranean summer from my memories.

  1.  Kingdom: plantae, Order: sterales, Family: asteracea, Genus: helichrysum, Species: Helichrysum italicum or as know as curry plant and
  2. Kingdom: plantae, Order: lamiales, Family: plantaginaceae, Species: Hebe Amy known as Hebe Amy



The place I smell the scent for the first time (2008), I start dreaming of it wherever I go from now on.


The second time the smell was very weak I felt dizzy (2012)


The garden where I discovered plant #1 (July 2016)


The garden where I discovered plant #2 (July 2016)

images source: Google Earth





ὅλος (holos; “whole”) and γραφή (graphe; “drawing”)

The act of making a hologram is an experience I have the chance to discover for myself as Artist in Residence in Organic Semiconductor Centre, at St. Andrews University.

First invented in the 60’s one can think that nowadays it will be easy to achieve satisfactory results in a couple of minutes. Surprisingly, this is not the case when it comes to building the set up and chemically processing the film/plate. A good four hours will vanish – while adjusting the optical alignment  and testing the exposure time.

The set up for transmission hologram includes : a laser,  a lens, [ a mirror (45 degrees)], a  glass plate coated with silver halide ,  a highly reflective object.

Working with RED Laser it turned not to be ingenious decision the use of green plants for an object!

Rather satisfactorily  results  came from silver/metal coated object or white, or a red coloured one.

To get into the nits and bolts of holography one has to think of the interference pattern as of the pixels of the digital image. For example, if you have the pixels of an image far apart with dark gaps between them it will be hard to ‘read’ the image they are composing.


image: Nedyalka Panova

The interference pattern of the two beams: the transmitted and the reflected has to appear close enough, with no distinguishable lines for the eye, for a 3D object to look solid.

The nearer the object to the silver halide plate is and the more reflective it is, the better the results.


Horse hind legs, hologram, Nedyalka Panova, 2016

Why I am trying to make a hologram at a first place?

It is an optical illusion and it is not. One can see a hologram only in a special light conditions looking at a precise angle but it is physically present as an actual photograph and the Chemistry of it follows the steps of traditional dark room technique. NB: not red lit one!

This duality of physical/virtual existence evoke ambiguous interpretations on the subject matter.

In the project I am involved ‘ Explosive sensor detection’, the physicists from OSC has developed an organic fluorescent coating for explosive sensing. When the sample is exposed to aromatic explosive molecules of TNT/DNT  and illuminated afterwards with UV the presence of these molecule attached to the sample quenches the light emission.

In the hologram the silver halide coating is exposed to the interference pattern of the beam: the one passing through it and when reflected from the object passes back interacting with itself.

The result is iridescent shifting mark from which in a second  bolts, nuts or forks start floating: the coin thrown to ‘tell’ head or tail  will never touch the ground.




to be continued….

Relevant links:

Only now I can fully understand Hariette Casdin-Silver’s work ‘Equivocal Forks I’

Mine Action


More than 20 years after the end of Yugoslavia wars, I went to Croatia to attend the 13th International Symposium and Equipment Exhibition “Mine Action 2016”

Talking to the people I met in Biograd na Moru, I see how the Croatian War for Independence is a traumatic memory. The younger generation who were 15 years old when the war took place have adapted and now they have families and jobs. For them, it is easier to talk about the past. ‘Many people left Croatia and migrated to Germany or Hungary as war refugees and have returned only after peace has been restored. Other people like me, we stayed’. – says Maria, who is aged 41 and lives and works in Biograd. ‘There were many houses that have been destroyed by grenades but now everything is refurbished and/or rebuilt’.

‘ We wanted to be an independent country and the Serbs started doing nasty things to us.’ – she continues. Older generation people, like Maria’s parents, have this to say: ‘We saw many things we want to forget. This is a trauma.  I do not want to remember’.

Croatia, which I am now exploring, has existed since the 7th century when Croats arrived during the  Slavic settlement at the Eastern Alps and it was in the 9th century when an independent Kingdom of Croatia was established.

During the 15th century it was part of the Venetian Republic known as Venetian Dalmatian until 1797 when Napoleonic wars started and the Venetian Republic was  dissolved.

Former Yugoslavia came into existence only after World War I, in 1918 when Croatia was included in the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Therefore, Yugoslavia had always contained the spirit of its independent kingdoms.

In the period 1991-1995 the wars for independence started with the 10 days war of Slovenia in 1991 followed by the Croatian war of Independence which was fought during the four years following its declaration on the 25th of June 1991.

The following wars

Bosnian War (1992–1995)

Kosovo War (1998–1999), including the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia

Insurgency in the Preševo Valley (1999–2001)

Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia (2001)

blocked the Balkans affecting economically neighboring countries due to military actions and the embargo on Former Yugoslavia (November 21, 1995) the consequences of which had a long lasting effect in Europe.



The two maps above overlap the up to date minefields map with the map of the  Political division of Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Dayton Agreement,  – signed in Paris on 14 December 1995.

‘These munitions – remnants from the former Yugoslav National Army or accumulated during the war – still pose a threat to Bosnia and Herzagovina.  Approximately 14,000 tons of ammunition remains scattered around the country at 15 storage sites controlled by the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This stock of unstable ammunition presents a significant risk to ordinary citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Additionally, the maintenance and physical security of this material is a continuous, expensive drain on the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s budget’.

Glamoč Ammunition Destruction Range is known as the place where small arms and light weapons (SALW) are destroyed at a pace of 2 tons/day. Munitions that cannot be disassembled due to age, condition or other technical issues are sent to Sterling at Glamoč.

‘The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina determined that it would take a disproportionate amount of time and resources to disassemble these munitions and then dispose of the primers, powder, warheads, tracers and cartridge cases. These munitions were therefore marked for destruction by open burning and open detonation.

Destroying the 2 million 20mm rounds classified by Bosnia and Herzegovina for destruction would cost approximately $4.25 million in explosives alone—not including the cost of technicians, support staff and other project requirements’.


A view from a minefield after the ‘treatment’ with heavy armored vehicles which explode directly the land mines.

I can see my project implemented at this stage:

  1. new vegetation will show presence of N14 – based explosive materials
  2. plants will absorb and therefore purify the soil from toxic contamination



The Pond…


Paulina’s after Viva Pondding!

It is a tradition at the School of Physics and Astronomy for newly graduated PhD students to be pondded into the tiny fountain in the courtyard of the building.

It is better to be prepared and ponder well the question what clothes to wear for the occasion as there are no excuses to prevent one from the happiness of pounding the bottom of the pond with a bum.


Well done Paulina! Good Luck!





image: Morning Glory, artist Kaori Yokoyama

The visiting exhibition of Japanese kaleidoscopes from the private museum of Mr Shinichi Okuma is a gentle reminder of the differences between the Eastern and Western cultures. There is far more to see here than one could expect from the original kaleidoscope invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816. [1] Its journey to Japan where it was brought by the East India Company for trade was undoubtedly a cultural loop at which returned point decorative art and science meets.

The kaleidoscope we look into is like a flower turned inside out and when rotated its petals shift and rearrange symmetrically in all possible combinations of shapes and colours they contain. One can find themselves staring at a thistle, a daisy or an orchid or even bigger plant: a branch of cherry blossom or a pine tree.

Every kaleidoscope has a different story to tell and the narrative immerses us in memories, nostalgia, dreams, wishes and fairy tales; sometimes these are sad and powerful stories, sometimes sweet moments of everyday life. In a playfully serious way the artists ask provocative questions: Where do dreams come from and why sometimes we have bad dreams, too? What is it like to look at the/from inside of pineapple or a pine tree in a forest, a dream or inside of God(s)?


image: Checkmate, artist Michihiro Murakoshi

Besides the well-known equilateral triangle, there exist setups of squares, pyramids, isosceles or scalene triangles and covered or partially covered mirrors that generate more complex and sometimes completely curious patterns. The original kaleidoscope’s set up of two or three mirrors between which a still image is endlessly multiplied to create a six facets symmetry has been decomposed and reconstructed as if it were a secrete text the letters of which have been extracted and new meaningful text has been generated out of the abstract language of optics.

In this moment of privacy, when one visually ‘enters’ into the artists’ world through the eyehole the principle of total inner reflection used in kaleidoscopes ‘tells’ us everything we know or have ever wondered about.

The kaleidoscope has its meaning when one looks inside it and what struck my attention the most was the expression on people’s faces while they were looking into it. From a phenomenological point of view I wonder what are the emotions that touch the seekers in this hidden self-reflected moment. Are we inside or outside of what we experience seeing in this collection and in our relation to the environment and people around us?

From a scientific discovery to a children toy, the idea of the kaleidoscope as a constant repetition of a pattern brings reminiscences of the origin of life. The core image multiplies in the manner of a single cell copying itself in all directions, or replicates as DNA in billions of combinations along the axis of symmetry. Is it the same if I look inside myself or inside of you or inside every other living form?

One thing is for sure, in Japanese culture the kaleidoscope, the name of which means [beautiful form to see], occupies a special place and has been nearly reinvented. Through craftsmanship and the artistic interpretation it has – surpassed long ago the principles of optics and become another world to peep into.

One piece stands out from the rest of the collection. It is a copy of a small garden and a teleidoscope to look at it with and study the surroundings. The teleidoscope works on the same principle as the kaleidoscope but as its name suggests like a telescope it makes distant objects appear near. It has a lens at its end and instead of showing inner details it opens the scope of the viewer to the outside world. Looking through it the garden gained another dimension. Structural colours from butterfly’s wings and chitin of beetles breaks into a blue and green palette. After this turning point I really wanted to go out and look and see more, in a new way.


image: Insect Kaleidoscope, artist Kyouko Kuno

At the last day of the exhibition I asked Mr Okuma what the kaleidoscope means to him.

The answer came as a surprise to me from a man who works with archives and collections, or probably just because of this, and after a short reflection he said: ‘Kaleidoscope is to look at life now, like there is no past or future, Carpe diem’.



To my set up under the microscopic I added two cross polariser sheets which triggered the birefringence effect of the crystals with asymmetrical crystal structure such as the DMDNB. Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light


image: DMDNB crystals under inverted microscope, 2016

The configuration of the crystals under the lens of the microscope shows different colours when one of the polariser sheets is rotated in an angle in relation to the other. Birefringence is responsible for the phenomenon of double refraction whereby a ray of light, when incident upon a birefringent material, is split by polarization into two rays taking slightly different paths.


image: Twisted Beauty, silica based aerogel, 2015

The following video ‘A new error’ artist MODERAT is based on kaleidoscope imaging

The Myth


I ended up reading the Prometheus myth today. The forethoughtful Titan who according to Greek Mythology created man out of clay and into this clay figure Athena breathed life.

Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, and wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man. Prometheus loved man more then the Olympians and gave him fire. After a series of conflict between Prometheus, Zeus and the mortal creatures in the story entered Pandora with a box full with evil. Ironically,  at the bottom of the box lay Hope and when one expect the story to end it actually begin.

The structure of the myth has been deeply investigated  by Claude Lévi-Strauss, a French anthropologist and  and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology.  He applies rigorous logic to the ‘primitive’ stories which capture the imagination of painters, poets, writers and philosophers.

The synthetic logic of the myth could be described as a grid, drawn from an abstract idea or personal experience, or internal/external and objective/subjective dependencies from the human soul to the cosmos.

The creative process of the story grows continuously ‘until the intellectual impulse which has originated it is exhausted’. The skeleton of the story according to Lévi-Strauss is a formula where two terms and two functions of these terms are related under conditions that one term could be replaced by its contrary and that an inversion could be made between the function and the term value of the two elements.

In the example of Prometheus myth, Prometheus could escape his fate only  in two conditions: The first was that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus, and the second was that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him.

Lévi-Strauss is trying to approximate the logic of thoughts that created Greek Mythology to the modern science saying that ‘the difference lies not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of the things to which it is applied’.

‘In the same way we may be able to show that the same logical processes are put to use in myth as in science, and that man has always been thinking equally well; the improvement lies, not in an alleged progress of men’s consciousness, but in discovery of new things to which it may apply its unchangeable abilities’.





Inverted MICROscopy




To my set up under the microscopic I added two cross polariser sheets which triggered the birefringence effect of the crystals with asymmetrical crystal structure such as the DMDNB. Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light


image Nedyalka Panova – DMDNB crystals

The traditional kaleidoscope continually changes symmetrical images and become popular optical toy when first manufactured in 1816 by  Sir David Brewster Principal of the University of Edinburgh, 1859-1868.

While nowadays artists and craft people can ‘carve’ kaleidoscope in every found object one can imagine.

The World Arts Film Festivalis is awarding the inaugural Kaleidoscope Awards for excellence in the art of filmmaking:


artist Koji Yamami


image Nedyalka Panova – DMDNB crystals


image Nedyalka Panova – DMDNB crystals

The configuration of the crystals under the lens of the microscope shows different colours when one of the polariser sheets is rotated in an angle in relation to the other. Birefringence is responsible for the phenomenon of double refraction whereby a ray of light, when incident upon a birefringent material, is split by polarization into two rays taking slightly different paths.

The optical illusion observed when peeping in a kaleidoscope made from this 19th century invention a prize looking toy for artists and scientists. A great collection from Japan Kaleidoscope museum can be seen between the 15th and the 18th of April 2016 in the Byre Theater at St. Andres

The show is called ‘Symmetry of Light’ and I will contribute with my birefringence kaleidoscope ‘Twisted Beauty’.


image Nedyalka Panova

Twisted Beauty, silica based aerogel, linear cross polarisers (2015)