What is Microbe Art?

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Living Roots Awaken in my Hands found dust on Luria -Bertani

I like to explore the relationship between art, science and society. My work is focused on transformation and the surrounding ‘entanglements’ that constitute life and our ecosystems. I view Microbe Art as a  transformation that reflects bigger concerns such as the balance of ecosystems and working within a delicate environment.

The value of art and science is not so much about introducing technologies but to inspire new thinking and new ways of confronting the various challenges for our current world.

I first started working with the IPE (Institute of Process Engineering- Beijing) on a project developing “The Microbe Art” in December 2020. Working with Prof Xing Jianming and IPE has been a hugely positive experience . A special thank you also to Dr Peter Mu who helped me in the laboratory, he introduced the world of making growth media, autoclaving, and aseptic techniques,


Microbe Art invites different ways of seeing.

Microbe Art is exciting because it deals with these tiny nanomachines we don’t normally see. However, when grown in colonies under certain conditions we can witness their presence in unexpected ways.


 The same petridish under different light 

"Lifelights II " E coli GFP, Kocuria Rosea, White M , on LB under UV1. “Lifelights II ” E coli GFP, Kocuria Rosea, White M , on LB under UV.

2.”Lifelights I ” E coli GFP, Kocuria Rosea, White M , on LB on lightbox.

3. “Lifelights III ” E coli GFP, Kocuria Rosea, White M , on LB on dark background.


What are the things we feel when we look at Microbe Art?

Working in the same office as Dr Mu is Dr Yang ,  Below is Dr Yang’s plate of microbes gathered from his home , this provided Dr Mu and I with new  microbes later sequenced and identified as Kocuria Rosea , Glutamicbacter Nictoniane , and others for further work . 

“Life is a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to get”

Microorganisms are ubiquitous and are found from within our own bodies to the deepest oceans and frozen lakes.  They drive processes such nutrient cycling in ground and water ecosystems. Microbial activity in humans includes producing food, digesting food, reducing inflammation etc. And of course there was that popular myth, the idea that there are much more bacteria than human cells in the body but scientists have concluded it is much closer  1:1 ratio , in fact “ the numbers are similar enough  that each defecation event may flip the ratio to favour human cells over bacteria “Nature 08, Jan 2016  ( Don’t you just love the way scientists talk!)


The Process 


1.Making Luria Bertani growth media                  

2.  Autoclaving  growth media                            

3. The plates are poured and allowed to cool and solidify under UV light to help maintain a sterile environment, The

lid sitting slightly above the cooling gel reduces chances of contamination however sometimes condensation gets caught on the lid sitting above the plate, this can sometimes contaminate the gel.


4. Glove contamination is easier to happen than you might think

5. After using wire loops to inoculate the plates I discovered I often broke the surface of the media. I later tried sterile plastic loops which were far easier tools to manage. Of course I broke even more rules using sterile brushes, and   even using print blocks .

6. Electrophoresis shows clear and distinct bands showing PCR was successful. Microbe Art6. Electrophoreis shows clear and distinct bands showing PCR was successful.

When we identified colonies with good performance growth and colour Dr Mu  isolated the colonies a few times to make sure they were pure without other strains . This was the first time I had seen a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machine being used. After electrophoresis confirmed the PCR worked Dr Mu sent off samples for sequencing. When the sequence code results arrived,  he matched the codes using a website where we could upload the segment of sequence to match and identify the exact strain of colonies with which we were working.


Microbe Art Workshops at Middle School 101

Microbe Art and transdisciplinary education

Microbe Art Workshop at Middle School 101

The Microbe Art Project brought scientists from the IPE including Prof Xing Jianmin, Dr Peter Mu and Dr Yang together with Teacher Ma (a well renowned science teacher here in Beijing) to present workshops on exploring  different growth processes and developing aseptic techniques in order to create artworks  at Middle School 101. This bringing together scientists, students, and artist transcends the boundaries of individual disciplines, discovering flexible forms of learning and collaboration.

IPE scientists Dr Peter Mu, Dr Nadia Samak, Teacher Ma, myself, Prof Xing Jianmin and Dr Yang  on our first visit to Middle School 101 in the school horticultural centre December 2020


Microbe Art in environmental research

Microbe art will extend beyond the petri dish. Scientists at IPE and those from other institutes will be working together developing plastic degradation in art. We are aiming to develop this over the next few years. Currently there is an ongoing academic research project spanning many countries and universities on plastic degradation. We are aiming to collaborate in such projects. I believe Microbe Art will be useful in developing popular science, cross discipline education  and extracurricular activities for middle schools . This is also important as we address the ecological emergency as we develop microbial art in plastic degradation and many other areas as we prepare for an ecologically safe living space for humanity and all living things.




This was my “Year of the OX post” made on my blog earlier this year


The year of the Vaccinae, CW  on Luria Bertani agar on lightbox, Niamh Cunningham 瑞莲 2021

Vaccinus is a latin adjective meaning ‘from cows’ (the word vacca meaning cow). At the end of the 18th century English physician Edward Jenner injected cowpox material to increase immunity protecting against the more serious small pox. The injection itself was called vaccination.








Her Name Penninsula Art Museum Weihai, Shandong 16 July- 22 Oct 2021
Linear….. showing at LangKong Art Museum (朗空美术馆) 07.7-30.7.21
Currently Showing in Suzhou Couples Retreat Gardens
The Second Step – mini solo of 18 portraits in HouHai from 6.6 tp 8.8
Astro World Exit Tourism – Group exhibition June 2021
Recently ART Beijing 2021 Booth B28 Irish Contemporary Art
Niamh Cunningham- Bio 。。。个人简介-倪芙瑞莲
Current Events 正在展出



2021年3月4月 ART Beijing 2021









202012 艺术推动可持续未来” 中国企业社会责任国际学术研讨会, 北京泰富酒店




20207  “沉默的爆破”,无锡外滩美术馆,江苏无锡, 7月11日至31日



2019年11月”中国 爱尔兰  MUSEu&m , 上海

*2019年11月装置中国—红房子首届国际户外装置创作营在乐山沙湾红房子开营 …开始阶段

*2019年8月*Gobi Heaven- August 戈壁。天堂-八月

*2019年7月”1919″ 爱尔兰  Sligo -Hamilton Gallery  

*2019年5月“胜日寻芳“ 山东济宁市泗水等闲谷艺术粮仓美术馆

2019年5月-16 爱尔兰大使馆布卢姆日的展览

20195-6  《一张棉花纸》   在宋庄东区玖层美术馆展出



*2018年11月-12月“地图与疆域”国际艺术邀请展 北京吉利学院


*2018, 10月中欧国当代艺术全球巡展·上海

2018, 9月-10月“纸上·至上”展览,沈阳市拓•空间,

2018, 6月-11月诗人叶芝日,爱尔兰,斯莱戈(SLIGO),汉密尔顿艺术画廊

*2018年8月 淮阴艺术馆提名展,淮安市

*2018, 8月 “纸上·至上”展览, 鄂尔多斯,

*2018 , 6月30日 济南“国际抽象艺术展”

*2018 , 6月17 日 纸上•至上2018 在青岛,

*2018 , 5月20 日存在-国际女性艺术展,湖南长沙,

*2018 , 4月21 日延缓的时间,4月21日-29日,红门画廊,798艺术区

*2018 , 4月20 日 挖掘,,和画廊,来鹏高尔夫俱乐部

*2018年4月-12日 挖掘, , 展览,悦美术馆,北京798艺术区




*2017年12月末至2018年1月末, 《时间之外》主题艺术展, 北京中关村融科资讯中心

*2017年12月, 形质与叙事, 形质与叙事, 东岳美术馆

 *2017年12月,广州新造当代艺术中心,纸上·至上 纸艺作品群展.

Upcoming Exhibitions

* AstroWorld Kun Art Museum June 5

*Portraits (solo) Joybeans  Hou  Hai 6.6-8.8

*River things  Suzhou Zhenyuan garden UNESCO world Heritage Training and Research centre June 12 th

Current Exhibition


Recent  exhibitions:

*Art Beijing  2021 Booth B28  Garden of Friendship

*“Art promotes a Sustainable Future” China CSR international symposium Dec 2020.

*Silent Explosion, Wuxi Bund Art Centre, Jiangsu,  July 11-31 2020

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

Current Exhibition

*China Ireland exhibition at MUSEU&m, near the Bund , Shanghai, Nov 29th 2019

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

*1919 – Group Exhibition (Hamilton Gallery) in New York, Irish Consulate

*1919 – Group Exhibition Hamilton Gallery , Sligo , Ireland July – September

*Gobi Heaven Art Festival , Inner Mongolia , August 2019

*A piece of Cotton Paper  9th floor gallery Songzhuang June 15th

*”Winning the Day ‘ Granary Art Centre,  SiShui , Shandong, May – June 2019

*Beyond the form of Art , Wick Art Centre , Budapest, Hungary may 2019

*Odyssey The Return ; group exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing  in April

Map and Territory Art IRRCA at Beijing Geely College Nov 20- Dec 20 2018

*Thousands of Sprouts, an experimental online exhibition – by Elizabeth Ross  Nov 2018

* On Paper Supreme, Gwangju Art Museum Beijing Creative Centre Songzhuang Nov- Dec 2018

*China Europe Internaitional Contemporary Art Global Tour Shanghai Oct 2018

*An Irish Airman foresees his Death – Hamilton Gallery Sligo, Ireland June – Nov 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Extension Space, Shenyang, Liaoning,  Sept 16th – Oct 21st  2018

*Artist Nomination Exhibition, Huaiyin art gallery, Huai ‘an shi, Jiangsu, July-Aug 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Ordos Culture and Art Centre , Inner Mongolia , Aug 17th – Sept 10th  2018

*International Abstract Art , ChungChuen College, Jinan, July 2018

* On Paper Supreme, QingDao , Tiantai Art Centre, June 2018

* Existence , International Feminist Art Exhibition,  Mezzi Bookstore Art Space , Changsha

* Excavations 20 April-4th June  He Gallery, Golf Club.

*’Mortgaged Time’ 21st- 29th April at Red Gate Gallery , 798 Beijing  April 21st

*’Excavations’ 12-18th Enjoy Museum 798,  Beijing   preview 5 pm 12th April

* 5 week residency at Guanlan Printmaking base , Shenzhen (Feb-March 2018)

*Lunar New Year theme exhibition “Red Fruit” showing at Raycom IT centre, Zhongguancun,  28th Jan continues to March 3rd, organised by RoveArt , supporting the Female Protection Fund.

*Chinese & Foreign Visual Arts Hunan,  at the Meixi Academy Book Complex, Changsha Dec 26th to Jan 26th 2018.

* ‘Beyond Time’  Raycom IT Centre, Zhongguangcun, Beijing Dec – Jan 27th  2018

*”Qualitative Phase and The Narrative” Beijing Film Academy Triennial Exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing, curated by Li Zhen till Dec 18th 2017…………………………………………….


由此及彼——中(国)爱(尔兰)女艺术家邀请展 The Pattern That Connects Sept 2020
Wuxi Bund Art Centre “Silent Explosion”
My interview with Today Art Museum and Today Art Media on the COVID era

Recent Interview , click on above image April 2020

Link to newspaper coverage -Carlow Nationalist (click on image)

In Her Eyes, F&E 100x100cm acrylic on canvas, 倪芙瑞莲Niamh Cunningham 2019

Silent Explosion
‘China-Ireland’ exhibition Shanghai Nov 29th 2019

China Ireland exhibition at MUSEu&m, Shanghai , opening Nov 29th

Early stage – Sculpture project HongFangzi ShaWan Sichuan
‘Whirls in the Old’ in New York at the exhibition ‘1919’

1919-Whirls in the Old Terezin acrylic on canvas 30x30cm Niamh Cunningham 2019

Gobi Heaven Art Festival August 2019

Participating in the International Artists program for this exciting event in the Gobi Dessert

Jul.Aug 2019 Group Exhibition , Hamilton Gallery , Sligo, Ireland and also Sept 2019 at the Irish Consulate Offices , Park Ave NYC
Granary Art exhibition SiShui Shandong June 2019

Granary Art Exhibition SiSHui , Shangdong June 2019 click on image

Swim Duck Video …30 sec clip of original work recently shown at Bloomsday event at Embassy of Ireland Niamh Cunningham 2019
clip from Swim Duck video Niamh Cunningham 2019

Clip from 'Swim Duck' Video by Niamh Cunningham 2019

Group exhibition in Sishui, Shangdong 正在展出

Granary Art Museum , Sishui, Jining , Shandong

April /May 2019 in Budapest 近期展出匈牙利

Currently showing in Budapest Aprli- May 2019

Wandering Rocks series of portraits 游岩系列
Talk on James Joyce at Bookworm with prof Fu Hao 乔伊斯座谈会
Aritst Talk on James Joyce at Beijing Bookworm

Talk on James Joyce at Bookwork Beijing April 2019

RTE interview on preparing for upcoming group exhibition 2 min clip
Web Of Fabulous Grass – Sucrose Series Click on image for Artist Profile English &简体中文
Artist talk at Beijing Geely College Dec 11th 2018
Map and Territory project Nov -Dec 2018 at Beijing Geely University
Map and Territory

Map and Territory

-.On Paper Supreme made its final exhibition for 2018 in Beijing Songzhuang opening Nov 16th
Group exhibition Hamilton Gallery, Sligo
Hamilton Gallery Sligo - Lonely Impulse 2

A response to WB Yeats poem 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death'

Group show Oct 27th Shanghai Bund 27 The House of Roosevelt House , the Bund Shanghai
Recent ‘At your Leisure’ Summer exhibition Jiangsu “悠游“——淮阴艺术馆
exhibited in Jinan curated by Ma Yi Ying
With curator Guo Zhen at the opening of Existence in Changsha , exhibition continues till end of July 2018


简体中文Artist Interview & Profile for the Art Project ‘Existence’
Group exhibition at Red Gate in April 2018 focussing on antiwar poet Ingeborg Bachmann
Niamh Cunningham 'Bachmann Girl' 2017

Artwork for poster is 'Bachmann Girl' 100x100cm Acrylic on Canvas by Niamh Cunningham 2017

Excavations showing at Enjoy Museum 798 April 2018

Excavations , a cross collaborative exhibition showing contemporary art by Chinese and Irish artists , showing in Enjoy Museum, 798 , 2018.4.12

Very honoured to have Irish Ambassador Eoin O’ Leary visit Chinese New Year exhibition “Red & Fruit”

Irish Ambassador Eoin O'Leary with subway paintings at Raycom Centre exhibition Feb 2018

Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her trips around Beijing

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Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her culture vulture trips around Beijing