These long fibrils of collagen protein give skin its underlying strength and toughness. The fine lines running across the fibrils show the precise arrangement of the individual collagen molecules that make up the fibril. The ones on the left are lying flat and the ones on the right are dipping downwards and have been sliced through at an angle giving rise to the more oval shapes. Having the fibrils running at different angles helps strengthen the skin when it is pulled in different directions. Skin can be processed into leather and it is the intermeshed collagen fibrils that make leather so tough.

The fibrils are 75 nanometres wide (1 nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre)

Image: Anne Simpson

Skin is a celebration of my family’s Totem, the Saltwater Crocodile, and our landscape. Even though I live in the Northern Territory, part of my heritage comes from the Torres Strait and creating this work represents my Skin’s affiliations and my place there, while paying homage to my heritage. The idea is to recreate the scales of a saltwater crocodile, the flow of the water and landscape. Skin can be read as a close-up of a reptile’s skin, and as a landscape both seen from a distance and as close-up details of rocks and sand. Everything is connected, the land, the water and us. Like the Crocodile we are Saltwater People with an ancient lineage.

Artist: Joshua Bonson