Artist Residency at Royal Brompton Hospital, Chelsea
It’s been a little while since I posted here as I’ve been busy finalising the outcomes. Hopefully I’ll be able to share these soon. In the meantime, here’s my studio wall with my ‘research tree’ and some other collected research, sketches and development work.
Working with paper enables a clear definition of form between positive/negative, inside/outside, creating stencil like forms. I also like these pieces which are results of process and reminiscent of forms found in the scans, rather than direct depictions.
“Thinking of a Garden” I’ve been enjoying working with paper again, after revisiting work from my residency at House of Illustration. I made this when I was vaguely thinking about a garden, something I have been considering a lot during this project.
I’m now at the end of my formal research stage, and am focusing on creating work which will potentially feature on the glass wall at the entrance to the building.
One of the visual routes I’ve been considering is using lino print/scan squares as single pixels – the individual specimens combing to create a collection, but also an image echoing patterns in nature. If these cover the whole window, they could emulate leaves or the scintillation of light. They could also be seen as little windows or portals, or echo the Chelsea landscape, with lots of little green squares.
These compositions reminded me of Conways Game of Life, a computer programme which echoes patterns in nature where cells in a grid evolve and change based of a set of rules – as happens in nature and the fractal patterns.
As I study the scans further I have noted landscapes, explosions and amoebas in the forms of specimens. It’s intriguing to think of the same patterns and fractal forms being present throughout nature. The images above show depictions of roots and neurons, whilst below is a diagram the pulmonary arterial ‘tree’ and it’s ‘branches’ in the lungs. These visual connections are another reminder we are a part of, rather than apart from the biosphere.
Looking more into fractals I was interested to learn about the Lindenmayer system, a mathematical formula “used to describe the behaviour of plant cells and to model the growth processes of plant development” It generates fractals reminiscent of arteries, neurons, roots, branches, rivers , frost, crystals etc. Source
Images – – Image from “The ecological relations of roots”, 1919 – Neuron from the human cerebellum by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, late 19th century – Diagram of the pulmonary arterial tree including the 10 segmental branches for each, from ‘CT Pulmonary Angiography: Quantification of Pulmonary Embolus as a Predictor of Patient Outcome – Initial Experience’ – Wu, Pezzullo, Cronan, Hou, Mayo-Smith, 2004
I recently read Being Ecological, by Tim Morton. It’s a fascinating insight into a range of ideas exploring how we understand the world around us and ecological thinking. Here’s a couple of ideas I found particularly interesting –
– The idea of picturesque depictions of nature actually have very little in common with the subject they depict. Abstract art, think Jackson Pollock, “is much more up to speed with living in a scientific age than sentimental ‘obvious’ images of majestic big cats or lush rainforests”
– “The experience of art provides a model for the kind of co-existence ecological ethics and politics wants to achieve between humans + nonhumans.” i.e Art is the access point for understanding a new perspective. For example. we can never fully comprehend every aspect of an apple at once, but a painting of an apple may highlight a certain characteristic of the apple we may have missed – without needing to taste like an apple or be understood from the perspective of the worm inside the apple.
Moving from growing technology, here’s a pic from inside my wee greenhouse of seeds ready for my little allotment patch. The greenhouse itself is somewhat of a cabinet of curiosity.
It reminded me of Window Box Allotment, a book I was introduced to about growing in small spaces written by Chelsea resident Penelope Bennett. Interesting to think about the opportunities for growing in the urban environment around Brompton and what might be achieved within a contained space.
The collections of Sloane and cabinet of Seba, both references for Carl Linnaeus devising nomenclature, came at a time when the contemporary Eurocentric understanding of world was being formed. I hope we are again on the cusp of new knowledge and deeper understanding of where we fit with the rest of nature and how we might work with other organisms, rather than destroy and exploit.
Amidst climate crisis, our understanding of the world must drastically change and I’ve been interested to read about Spinach sending emails, Sunflowers processing radioactive material (and harvesting gold) or fungi used to decontaminate soil.
Beyond that, architect and designer Neri Oxman has developed a philosophical framework called Material Ecology to reconsider how we approach our relationship with nature. Operating at the intersection of technology and biology her studio explores fascinating potentials for organic materials. For example, replacing plastic with fabricated organic materials. Her idea of growth vs assembly as a means of construction is particularly interesting to me. Can future technology be grown? Could we grow a hospital?
Some of the diagrams explaining MRI, and also some of the scans, reminded me of Chladni figures – a visualisation of sound waves from 1787. Chladni placed sand on a metal plate and would pull a bow on the edge of the plate to create resonance and the vibration created nodal line patterns. Different frequencies create different patterns.
It’s so interesting to me to see naturally occurring geometry visualised like this and highlights the idea of an unseen order in nature. Electromagnetic waves are of course fundamental to imaging technology. I wonder what the sound of the MRI machine would look like?
Sound has been a key idea brought up when talking about the experience of MRI. Even with headphones it can be create an uncomfortable experience for patients. When I was in the MRI room, I thought there was some minimal music playing in the background.
It would be interesting if the beat/rhythm of the machine could be used as the starting point for musical compositions – so rather than trying to cancel out the noise, it’s integrated into music and effectively used as an instrument.
I’ve played with the idea of truth in diagrammatic language before and the notion that in early medicine, If you could visualise it, it could be true. I love this combination of imagination and science. Here I used the linear language of contemporary diagrams to make an imagined visualisation of the unknown functions of the Huntington gene. This was an outcome to a residency working at Strathclyde University with the Chamberlain Research Group exploring the genetic structure of Huntington’s disease.
I’ve been looking a lot at historic botanical, medical and scientific diagrams. Diagrammatic visual language as a tool to describe the world is a recurring interest in my work. These images could be anything and out of context they become abstract with the potential for new meaning. I’d like the works for the centre to be equally ambiguous, open to multiple readings and interpretations.
Images – 1 – Ernst Haeckel, Development of an embryo, 1874 2 – J.G. Meijer. Kernschede, 1880 3 – Leopold Kny, wood radial, [1874-1911] 4 – Contemporary digital diagram of Chloroplast
The grain texture in some of the scans felt reminiscent of lino cut prints, so I thought this might be an interesting route to explore. The idea of negative/positive image is a big part of both imaging and printmaking. Again, these I really like these more gestural elements and ghostly forms in the scans are really appealing.