Phase Transitions – Series II – 1


The first stage in the second series of Phase Transitions. Look here to see more and find out more about what this is.


Rocks in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains 2


A monochrome watercolor made by Svend Keller on June 7th, 1949. The caption reads “Schrammsteine – Wildschützensteig -“. The “Schrammsteine” is a rock formation in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. “Wildschützensteig” is a particular way up those rocks. The name means something like “poacher’s steep track”.  You can find pictures of it on the internet. There are metal staircases in parts of the way today, but I don’t know how it looked in 1949.

There are several drawings by Svend Keller showing motives from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. This is the second one I am showing here, the first one is here. Throughout his life, Svend Keller was fascinated by this mountain range with its rugged, steep cliffs. After moving to West Germany, he was, to his regret, unable to visit this area for several decades and only returned there after Germany’s reunification.

The picture looks almost like an abstract painting, especially if you enlarge it on your screen and look at sections of it. I like the structures and textures of it. Unlike the other watercolor paintings I have posted here before, it looks like there is no preparatory drawing in this one.

Phase Transitions 5


This is the last stage in this particular series of Phase Transitions (more are forthcoming).

The crystallites of the low temperature phase have taken over completely.

If you look at the whole series, you can see how these images are emerging from the interplay of physical laws and historical accident. Laws of nature determine the properties of these crystals, but accidents determine the exact direction and position of them. The initial melt is of a featureless symmetry, treating all places and all directions in the same way, at least on the scale visible through the microscope. When crystals form, this symmetry is broken, and domains form in which certain directions have different properties. In the images, this is reflected in the emergence of color and structure. Some of this structure is then obliterated in further phase transitions which create new symmetries and break existing ones, leading to a complex but partially ordered image that we perceive as beautiful.

The chance components of these processes are unpredictable, leading to a different outcome each time you perform this experiment, so this is an example of a system that generates new information. In a sense, this little blob of matter under the microscope is creative.

Rudi Gruner

Rudi Gruner

In a previous post I had already posted two drawings Svend Keller made of the painter and artist Rudi Gruner, another member of the Chemnitz circle of artists to which my father, Svend Keller and his father Rolf Keller also belonged. Here is another sketch showing him (black chalk on A4-size paper), made by Svend Keller on 24th of February (or March?) 1949.

Gruner (1909 – 1984) was a painter, graphic artist and book illustrator. He belonged to the “lost generation” (in German: “verschollene Generation”) of artists born around 1900 who are less well known because the Nazi time and World War II interfered with their artistic careers and the reception of their works. Some links to more information on him can be found in my previous article (see link above).

Here are two paintings of Gruner which now belong to my sister Christine. I hope I will be able to get some better photographs of them, but this is what I have at the moment. The first one, a watercolor, was a wedding present Rudi Gruner gave to my parents. It is showing the “Schlossteich”, a pond in a park in Chemnitz:

 Park Rudi Gruner (1)

This picture was hanging in our living room when I was small, so it is something I have been growing up with.

The second is a painting showing two women playing flutes:

Rudi Gruner Floetenspielerinnen

I think this painting was in the possession of Rolf Keller.

Phase Transitions 4

DSC00272The fourth phase of the Phase Transitions.

You may just look at this as a piece of abstract photography, and Svend Keller, when making these pictures, probably also looked at them from this perspective, with the attitude of a graphics artist and photographer.

On the other hand, as a material science teacher, he was also interested in the scientific side of it. If this aspect does not interest you, you might just stop reading here.

The crystallites of the low temperature phase are growing further, leaving only small rests of the previous configuration with the larger crystals striped by twinning (see previous posts). Some patterns of the previous dendritic growth pattern are still visible, perhaps as a result of different concentrations of the two components of this system, and the larger gaps are still visible. Apart from that, the crystals are “forgetting” their old structure. I don’t know if the gaps appearing black here were still filled with molten material or with another configuration (perhaps of only one of the two substances involved (Suberic acid and Phenyl salicylate (Salol))) that was not “optically active”, i.e. does not cause interferrence colours when interacting with polarized light.