World’s First Painting with DNA Code

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Two Lithuanian geneticists, Lukas Žemaitis and Ignas Galminas have collaborated with artist Tadas Sokolovas to create the world’s first painting using DNA insertion. The painting named DNA Painting No. 1, depicting one of Lithuania’s most famous artists, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, was unveiled at the Center for Civil Education on July 6.

Invited by geneticists to collaborate, Sokolovas agreed to paint the first painting with a DNA code. The Pop Art artist says he chose the image of Čiurlionis because he was unique like the painting. “When a painting has its own DNA, it becomes impossible to copy it. This is the only painting in the world with this technology,” Sokolovas told LRT TV.

“The DNA itself contains information. This means the 196 paintings by Čiurlionis are […] encoded in DNA, and the DNA itself is mixed into the components of the painting,” he added.

The idea is the brainchild of two geneticists, Žemaitis and Galminas, who borrowed it from nature.

“Nature stores information in the form of DNA in every living organism, so digital information can be stored in the same way. A computer has a language of ones and zeros, and nature has four molecules, four letters of DNA. You transfer the same principle to DNA and make an artificial DNA molecule, which, when scanned, can be converted back into computer code,” Žemaitis explains, adding that one gram of DNA can contain a billion terabytes of information.

The developers of the technology say they wanted to use the language of art to present the progress and potential of genetic science to the public in a way that they could understand.

The artwork’s canvas is covered with over 30 different layers of acrylic and lacquer paint, overlapping to create a colourful graffiti-style full of inscriptions and symbols.

Last year, Žemaitis and Galminas also wrote Lithuania’s national anthem into a DNA molecule. The anthem is also integrated into the new painting, encoded in the paint of the record player featured in the painting. The DNA-written information can be read using special technology.

Tadas Sokolovas describes himself as a process-driven, popart artist. “My works tap into our primordial desire for chaos and harmony, mess and elegance. Paintings are born in a labor-intensive process of painting, drawing, scraping, destroying and repainting. I create abstracted, layered elegance of symbols, comics, cartoons, styles, writings, graffiti, icons, scribbles, paintings and forms that emerge organically into a portrait or figure.”

He is currently based in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he sudied Arts, Multimedia, and Design. He participated in residencies in Turkey, Cyprus, and Hong Kong and has had several solo exhibitions in Kaunas and Vilnius.