A unique painting created by street artist James Cochran, also known as Jimmy C, has been unveiled at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, today. Based upon real-life images of cancer research, the intricate artwork is made of an estimated 50,000 small dots of paint, each hand-dispensed from a laboratory pipette, the type used by scientists.
Titled Cell Defence, the painting is in pointillism style and inspired by an image of liver cancer cells taken through a microscope by scientists at ICR. The image shows how the body’s own immune system responds to the cancer cells to try and keep cancer’s ability to adapt and evolve in check.
Cochran, who is best known for his mural of David Bowie in Brixton, spent more than 250 hours painstakingly applying 1 cm droplets of paint from a pipette to a canvas. His 50,000 dot work symbolises the complexities of cancer evolution research and the creativity and commitment needed by the ICR’s scientists to stay one step ahead of cancer.
Cochran says, “I’m used to using cans of spray paint in my art, so swapping that for a lab pipette was quite challenging, but also very rewarding. The process of slowly building up the painting dot by dot and the inspiration for the piece gave me a better understanding of the challenges involved in finishing cancer and the inventiveness needed by scientists to do that. I’ve had a number of treatments for a type of skin cancer called a basal cell carcinoma and I’ve lost loved ones to the disease, so this commission was personal to me. The work the ICR is doing in tackling cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to drugs and treatments is so important now during the coronavirus crisis, more than ever, and I really wanted to reflect their efforts in this painting.”
Cell Defence will be displayed permanently in the ICR’s Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, which opens on 17 November. Find further information here.
Featured image: James Cochran, Cell Defence, 2020 © John Angerson