The Hive JQ


31 Jan - 25 Feb

Truth to Nature: The Art of Iridescence: Exhibition

We are delighted to exhibit the work of contemporary artist Franziska Schenk who uses nano-pigment technology to depict the iridescent colour of nature. This exhibition takes its theme from John Ruskin's call for artists to 'go to Nature, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing' and his attack on Darwin's theory of evolution. Alongside this exhibition we have a programme to mark Ruskin's 201st birthday and the end of his bicentennial celebrations. 

‘If I had him [Darwin] here in Oxford for a week, and could force him to try to copy a feather…, his notions of feathers… would be changed for all the rest of his life. But his ignorance of good art is no excuse for the accurately illogical simplicity of the rest of his talk of colour in the Descent of Man’.

Ruskin, LE 25. 263-264


Franziska Schenk uses nano-pigment technology developed for the commercial industries. The technology enables Schenk to depict the iridescent colour that formed the centrepiece of Ruskin’s attack on Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Schenk writes, ‘Ruskin’s study of a single iridescent peacock feather showing each individual filament can be seen as an attempt to gain a better understanding of the workings of these mysterious rainbow colours, and to analyse their purpose in the grander scheme of nature, evolution and art. Ruskin urged artists to ‘go to Nature, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing.’

Franziska Schenk’s work on nature’s iridescent hues and millennia-old colour optics, complemented by scientific study, have led her to adapt and adopt new nano-materials for painting. The resulting artwork, like iridescent creatures, fluctuates in perceived colour and pattern, depending on the light and vantage. Her work, From Mimesis to Biomimetics: Towards Smarter Art, has most recently been presented at Max Planck Institute, Dresden in June 2019.


Opening days and times

You will be able to access the exhibition during the Hive Cafe and Bakery opening times:

  • Monday to Friday 8am to 3.30pm.
  • Opens Friday 31 January.
  • Last day of exhibition: Tuesday 25 February
  • Weekend opening: Saturday 8 February: 10am-1.30pm

Events Programme

Happy 201st Birthday John Ruskin!

Join us for afternoon tea and cake and a Ruskin-inspired event programme to mark the end of Ruskin's bicentennial celebrations.

Saturday 8 February 2-5pm. 

  • 2pm Refreshments are served
  • 2.15pm Talk and Q&A with artist Franziska Schenk about her work and Ruskin
  • 2.45pm Talk and Q&A on the Practical Skills Therapeutic Education methodology, inspired by John Ruskin that is used by Ruskin Mill Trust to transform the lives of the young people with complex learning and behavioural needs, this is followed by a tour of the building, including to the rooftop biodynamically farmed allotment-micro-farm.
  • 3.45pm Birthday cake and an artist led creative workshop (artist-facilitator to be confirmed) All abilities catered for!
  • 5pm close

General Tickets £8. Students and unwaged £4. Children (aged 10+) £3. 

Book tickets HERE.

Meet the Artist lunchtime events in The Gallery

  • Friday 21st February: 12-2pm  FREE. Drop-in. All welcome

Nature-themed Family Art Workshop with Franziska Schenk

This workshop is designed for children and their parent or carer to enjoy together. Participants will closely observe the beautiful iridescent rainbow colours of butterflies and then render these artistically, using magnifying glasses and the latest nano-paints.

Friday 21 February: 10am - 11.45am

Youngest suitable age for workshop: 10

Tickets: Children £5. Accompanying adults £2.

16 places available

Book Tickets HERE.

About the Artist


Franziska Schenk is an artist and lecturer in Fine Art at Birmingham City University. She holds an MA (with Distinction) in Fine Art, and First Class Hons Degrees in Fine Art (Birmingham City University) and Art Education (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt).

Her work has been shown in venues across England and in Germany. And, in tandem, she has conceived, initiated and led a number of funded Art and Science projects, focusing on the conversion of nature’s iridescent colour to the painter’s palette – introducing flow, dynamism, transience and an evolutionary element into painting.