After Fire and Earth, Ether (or Space) is the third completed painting in the
‘Elements Series’ Rob has been working on for some time. Each painting features a
woman emerging from the element she portrays. This painting is about the fact that
our bodies are more light energy than solid matter.
In this painting the woman’s body emerges from the light emitted from the center of
a spiral galaxy. This galaxy is called N-64, photographed by the Hubble space
telescope. Rob chose this particular galaxy because of its resemblance to a bird nest
and its name to the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text
from about 1000 BC.
As the light energy rises through the chakras (energy centers along the spine) the
woman’s body takes on material form. The heart chakra is depicted as a portal of
While working on this series Schouten learned about Plato’s assignment of each of
the Platonic solids to a specific element.
In three-dimensional space, a Platonic solid is a regular, convex polyhedron. It is
constructed by congruent (identical in shape and size) regular (all angles equal and
all sides equal) polygonal faces with the same number of faces meeting at each
The tetrahedron (four faces) Plato associated with Fire, the cube (six faces) with
Earth, the octahedron (eight faces) with Air, the dodecahedron (twelve faces) with
Ether, and the icosahedron (twenty faces) with Water. Euclid mathematically
described the Platonic solids in his book Elements.
While the idea of these solids is thought to have originated with the ancient Greeks,
some 2000 years earlier Late Neolithic people in Scotland carved stone balls of
about 2,5” in diameter, a number of whom strongly resemble the Platonic solids.
These are the five stone spheres that float around the figure in the painting.
Also floating around the figure are three mitochondria, the organisms in each cell
that convert food into energy, that contain their own DNA. Mitochondrial DNA differs
from regular nuclear DNA in that it is only inherited from the mother and the two
kinds of DNA are thought to be of separate evolutionary origin.
Thus this painting is about the fact that our bodies, and indeed all material forms,
are more light energy than solid matter.