“Photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality. Thus it is the responsibility of photographers to not contribute …
“Science is a quest for the most intimate understanding of nature. It is an adventure of the free and enquiring spirit that thrives not so much on answers as unanswered questions. It is the enigmas, the mysteries and paradoxes that take hold of the imagination, leading it on the most exquisite dance.”
The Rainbow and the Worm Mae-Wan Ho 2008
Are you a scientist?
Are you an artist?
What do you see?
I am currently reading The Rainbow and the Worm, or in truth I am trying to understand this scientist’s viewpoint to gain a basic level of the physics of microorganisms. The writing is quite poetic in places, as I hope this quote illustrates, but when Mae-Wan steps from the rhythmic prose to the real science of equations etc I involuntarily glaze over – my brain does not understand the language. This cognitive response is making me question whether I need to comprehend, or should I accept my role as an artist is different from that of a scientist? Both disciplines attract people with enquiring minds but with different strengths. So should I glean what I can from the study and focus on my skill set or push to fathom scientific phenomena?
I am currently reading The Rainbow and the Worm written by Mae-Wan Ho
(at the suggestion of blogger Celia Wilson) to attempt a basic understanding of the physics of organisms.
“Science is an adventure of the free and enquiring spirit that thrives not so much on answers as unanswered questions. It is the mysteries, the enigmas and paradoxes that take hold of the imagination, leading it on the most exquisite dance.”
The same statement could be made about much contemporary art and therefore it seems an appropriate read on my way to meet microbiologist and artist Dr Simon Park at the University of Surrey. I have been fortunate to receive a New Collaboration Bursary from A-N to explore the potential of working with Dr Park on a new project that combines art and science.
My approach embraces the cohabitation of art and science and how this relationship enriches both my artwork and a wider understanding of the world. The gaps and the differences in our experiences deliver fractured realities that profile the earth as an enigma. To try and unravel this mystery I research and collaborate with specialists from other disciplines including scientists and geographers when the tension between approaches, objective scientific verses subjective artistic, the latter further skewed by emotional and philosophical underwriting, creates dynamic outcomes that ignite curiosity and debate.
Together, both disciplines aim to capture an appreciation of the less visible imprints but as free spirits the way ahead is unknown.
Photographs: Top – research inspiration
Others – sculpture Atomic Equilibrium
Atomic Equilibrium 2013
Everything is made of atoms – finding the balance – an eternal quest
Dimensions: 20 x 36 x 16 cm
Materials: old wooden picture frame, found discarded door lock, hand forged nail
If a painting is a movie running on a screen, a sculpture is a drama playing on a stage. Sculpture gives an audience and the artist more directions to evaluate. The audience can go inside a sculpture or come out of it to look at it. The artist’s message is a key for the audience to open their own door to experience the sculpture in 360 degrees. Sometimes, the audience will become part of a sculpture or participate in it. There is no limitation of the imagination of what a sculpture means to each individual audience. Sometimes, the imagination can pass through the timeline to see the elements from a different time or space.
Gong Yuebin in conversation with Jac Scott, 2013
(I created the photomontage above from original photograph of a derelict house in a village in Norfolk)
Chinese born, USA based, sculptor Gong Yuebin is just one of 28 extraordinary sculptors from around the globe that I am writing about in my new book about mixed-media sculpture. Find more of Gong’s work here http://www.gongyuebin.com/
Detail of Site 2801, Gong Yuebin
This is the truth of the world: it comes out of nothing, it is created, which means that it is unproduced, unformed, and not constructed. It is an alteration and a spasm of nihil. The world is an explosion and an expansion of an exposure (which can be called “truth”, or “meaning”). The chiasm of the body and of the world exposes exposure to itself—and with it, the impossibility to finally bring the world to the spirit, and bring meaning to significance. The body is a strangeness which is not preceded by familiarity.
Photograph July 2013 – Tide Out, Morecambe Bay, Cumbria
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
Photograph taken in Sea Wood, near Ulverston, Cumbria, UK – May 2013.
“Critical art is an art that aims to produce a new perception of the world, and therefore to create a commitment to its transformation. This schema, very simple in appearance, is actually the conjunction of three processes: first, the production of a sensory form of ‘strangeness’; second, the development of an awareness of the reason for that strangeness and third, a mobilization of individuals as a result of that awareness.”
― Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics
New work – Genius Loci
This digital photomontage takes the image of a fly’s compound eye, magnified 150 times, I photographed this using a scanning electron microscope. Inserted ‘inside’ the eye is a window of an old farm building that intrigued me with its dark interior and a small rectangle of light on the opposite wall. It an image of hope.
What do you see?
“To communicate is to be alive, to be active, in relation with others…For communication is essentially an interchange, a question and a reply, an action and a reaction between an individual and the environment in which he lives.”
Maurice Fabre A History of Communications
Our preoccupation with computer technology creates a symbiotic relationship that endorses a dependence on staying in touch by harnessing electronic media as the vehicle – but is this preference an opt-out or opt-in for meaningful dialogue? Text messaging, emails, blogging, social networking using Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc all require writing and yet our literacy standards are going down – is the power of the written word changing to mere elemental levels?
Does the sequestration of technology limit our ability to communicate with our environment and therefore inhibit our understanding of the natural and untamed? The irony of posting this on my blog is not lost on me but the query is a genuine one for a dialogue on the subject – what do you think?
The image below was taken of a fragment of moss using a scanning electron microscope at the University of Central Lancashire during my residency there. The digital montage features computer mice collaged onto the photograph to mimic the seed pods growing out of the plant.
The work was shown as a research drawing for my Beautiful Dystopias exhibition in Preston last month.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.”
Drawing: montage using foundation photograph 800x magnification of granite core brought back from China, digital handwritten text, photograph inverted of found dead tree, raven drawing.
Are you sitting comfortably?
“It isn’t so much as what’s on the table that matters as what’s on the chairs”.
William S. Gilbert
The chair has long been a metaphor for the human and many artists have utilised this motif to great effect. It is a powerful symbol I return to often in my work, its accessibility makes it a favourite with many.
I have just finished working on the remnants of a broken and battered wooden chair, that I found washed up on a local beach, with its shabby paint and distorted form, it is completely gorgeous. The chair appears to be walking into the wall with flies crawling up one side of its back.
A new sculpture for my Beautiful Dystopias Collection.
Dimensions: 86 x 65 x 24 cm
Materials: found broken, wooden chair, hand crafted flies, concealed metal fixings