Friday, 18 August 2017


The drawers which house the work within the Cavendish Museum have a number of labels on the outside which both form part of the book-like qualities of the piece and provide an invitation to their opening - together they form a text piece

what does science look like?
repetitive actions repeated
the space between
to be repeatable
controlled and recreated
noisy like air
evidence of activity
building a set of rules
intentions and actions
thinking outside thinking
tools for thinking
balancing always balancing
imagined spaces
a space of possibilities
assumed knowledge
presenting evidence
controlled spaces controlled
optimisation is compelling
in stillness and silence
potential for revelation
nano folk-law
tools for the mind and hand
thinking through making
limitations are important
making the invisible visible
created spaces controlled
grasp an understanding
make science
of something dimensionless
defiantly transitional
a block of knowledge
potential for revelation
the ritual of work
interesting not interesting
object making
things that are true
spaces are created
engagement with rules
measuring forces

thinking about possibilities


The banners are up and looking good - they provide a contextual explanation for the work on display within the Cavendish Museum.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


I've been looking at this diagram/sketch in my notebook -
the film is the result of this reflection. The engineering problem of contracting and expanding is fascinating. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


The latest exhibition as part of the residency - a huge presentation case within the Physics Department situated just outside the Cavendish Museum. The work on display is mainly the solid 3D representations of space. In the initial phase of the residency I attempted to assimilate the wide range of processes and activities first year students engaged with. I encountered many concepts initially beyond my understanding of the world but now realise that they very much underpin it. I slowly became preoccupied with a number of these issues. Whilst attending a practical demonstration I can remember the sensation of my mind slightly drifting as yet another truly extraordinary piece of information was imparted but which I was unable to fully comprehend.  In an attempt to grasp an understanding, I started to watch the hands of the demonstrator -  there was an urgency as they used every facility they had to communicate. This space of not knowing appeared to enable a thought, to explore how whilst in the lab scientific concepts and lab processes are communicated through subconscious hand gestures. I developed a series of articulated handheld hinged structures derived from what I call 'laboratory choreography'. The structures mimicked or illustrated the movements made by the hand within the lab that were created whilst explaining scientific processes. The structures represented these movements -  subsequently they were returned to the lab, the movements re-enacted as a form of performative act. This small observation and subsequent body of work has instigated conversation and debate and raised consciousness amongst scientists about how we communicate. I encountered a number of machines that map the topology of surfaces of material. To enable this, they are calibrated to 'fire' matter, electrons, at the material they are investigating. The evidence of this activity is mapped, the space between surface and probe, or the interaction of electrons and material providing answers. The cast work follows a line of enquiry that looks at these phenomena. Science appears to be interested in the surface but what of the space between, the non or negative space, can this be mapped and made physical? I have been making physical something that cannot be seen by casting the negative space of the folding structures that explored the hand gestures, fixing a moment in time.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


new exhibition within the drawers of Maxwell's Lab cases. The latest exhibition is in the Cavendish Museum in the Physics Department on the West Cambridge site Thinking about making and making through thinking. For artists, the majority of the work they create is invisible to a public outside their studio. This work often takes the form of sketches, notes and material tests existing in notebooks and discarded objects in the studio on its way to becoming something 'finished'.
The collection of double page spreads in the drawers are a form of visual note book. The pages act as a repository for some of the pieces or 'props' that were created for and used within finished film pieces. The spreads are full of ideas, possible starting points and contain many elements of the finished works - they are in effect a sort 'look book' or 'mood board' of the project. 
The idea of revelation is at the core of my history with the book. Here the action has been recreated by literally opening the drawers to reveal the inner space where ideas are stored. The placing of the pieces references the late 19th century practice of displaying objects within cabinets of wonder or curiosity – these are modern versions of the contents of Cabinets of Curiosities.
Much of my work has been about exploring space, the space between and the space of making, the idea of negative space. Within science, words have a particular and specific meaning, but for me I feel I am allowed to play with this idea and the articulated structures are tools that heighten an awareness of the hand movements whilst demonstrating scientific processes. They are starting points to consider actions in space.
The glove box and the laboratory are very specific spaces. That they often protect the specimen within the experiment from us rather than us from it is an intriguing idea. These spaces created to manipulate objects are contained, clean, dry in an attempt to be 'non'.   Within this extraordinary space, specific materials and situations are monitored, ready to be recreated, actions controlled to be repeated. These spaces have their parallel in the art world: the space of the gallery, the white cube where the art is on show, an anonymous space where the art is supposedly the focus. Obviously no space is neutral and each have their meanings, which can be read, but the aspiration to create a static continuum brings to mind the words of Heraclitus 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.'  It appears that science and art are constantly trying to create a time and space where the river is still.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


A new exhibition of work created as part of the residency - there are a number of images hanging in the shared area on level 3 of the Maxwell Centre. The images have been made during a residency within NanoTechDTC and start to explore a number of issues; the question of what science looks like, how scientific concepts and lab processes are communicated through subconscious hand gestures whilst in the lab, and mapping the seemingly disregarded by making the unseen visible. The process of working within the labs and engaging with research students has generated a body of new artwork which has been informed by the engagement with nanotechnology. A series of ongoing interventions within the space has generated discussion, presented new possibilities and ways of thinking. The project has recognised similarities, explored possible confluence and developed connections by researching and deconstructing the physical and theoretical concerns of scientists working in the nanotechnology field within the framework of a fine artist practice.
When working within science one is confronted by the phenomena that is the laboratory, it is a completely controlled, managed environment. Every aspect including light levels, moisture content and dust particulates is monitored. Entering through an air shower, wearing head to toe specialist clothes one becomes conscious of one's body; every action is considered and in some way constricted. But the mind is free to wander. Within the laboratory there is the glove box, we have all encountered them in the media. They reference fear and science in the same sentence. Arms are forced into rubber gloves within a sealed box that enables the operator to work with  samples. The space attempts to be a 'non space' that is neutral and repeatable, in which the controlled factors enable the focus of activity to be on the samples, the actual science worked on.  
The artist studio is traditionally a space of making and the gallery of displaying conclusions, so the laboratory/gallery correlation is not an exact match, but I started to think about the parallels that these spaces have.

The white box of the gallery is a physical and conceptual space that attempts to enable viewers to see art without restrictions or connections. It's function is to neutralise the materiality of the space, to enable the focus to be on the work, to place art at the centre. For outsiders entering a gallery it must be a similar experience to gallery goers entering a laboratory. The rituals seem obscure and indecipherable and the space unfamiliar, what do you do in here? How do you perform? Is there a right way to do this?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


The first major hang of work is up. The work is in the corridors in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy building. I am really pleased with how it looks both as work in itself but also how it changes and is changed by the space. The way in which the sequences and groups have been hung start to enable narratives to form in the mind, my favorite moment of the day was watching one scientist explain and then discussing the work with another scientist. A real success. There are a range of approaches to crystallography explored within the body of work from symmetry, stereographic projection to direct phase. A big thanks to Duncan Johnson for helping to make the work of hanging an inspiring and fun experience....

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


working on a body of work with the 3D printing. There is a film that uses the impossible object that was 3D printed. The film focuses on the shadow made from the object whilst it is manipulated in the hands. meanwhile preparations for the extensive hang on Friday are moving forward. creating sequence layouts for the different corridors, folding clear plastic for the boxes to hold the objects, printing the posters and testing 'stickiness' of various tapes. It will be great to see the work completed and available for others to see.

Thursday, 8 June 2017


As a number of strands within the project come towards some form of conclusion I've been thinking about technology readiness levels in science and how it may or may not relate to the world of art. There are a number of issues to consider, namely around intention, the object's relationship to an audience and the concept of 'finishedness'.  TR1 might be all about thinking and collecting ideas, sometimes these are revelations but they mainly come about through hard work. Evidence of this would be found in the note or sketchbook. TR2 is more thinking and an agreement in your mind with the 'inner you' that it's okay to work on it, is it a valid activity to engage in further?  TR3 Could be focused on telling other people about your idea and discussing possibilities of the subject within the context of other people's practice and the art world as a whole. TR4 Material testing in the studio of the various elements or parts of a piece, this is alongside the notion of developing an individual practice.TR5 A whole artwork is now created, elements of how each part functions with other elements or pieces of the work is tested and it is determined a success. This is based on a set of conscious or subconscious notions or criteria depending on how you work as an artist. TR6 First piece is made, this could be the end of the process but if an artist wants to connect with an audience or further develop their practice more work is to be made. TR7 could be where a body of work is created based on an initial idea or research path. TR8 This makes me think about the role of the exhibition, the work is now out there in the world and engaging with a public speaking for itself. TR9 is a practice, a continuum of the whole process which enables an individual to make the next piece of work.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


a morning of printing more images that explore projections - trying to make the two colours work together is a challenge alongside looking at some more complex tessellation and symmetrical patterns. The poster looks good as well as explaining some of the ideas behind the work. Combining art and science concepts is a challenge but talking about the work from two places enables a third to emerge.

text for poster with clarity from Duncan 
unfolding thinking
As part of a residency with the Nano Doctorial Training Centre I have been exploring concepts of structure in materials down to the atomic scale and creating artwork inspired by the practicalities of revealing nanoscale structure using electron microscopy.
I encountered the idea of using the scattering electrons to obtain evidence of nanoscale structure in a material within an introductory practical held for first year NanoDTC students looking at the interpretation of electron diffraction patterns and images, acquired using a transmission electron microscope.
Initially, I was interested in the use of symmetry within crystallography as a tool for defining, for creating a taxonomy for atomic structure. But the mapping of a structure to a measurable signal, a diffraction pattern or image, captured my interest with the idea that physical laws provide a route to determine an unknown structure by obtaining evidence of its existence in these signals.
It is a system which attempts to reveal an unknown from a series of knowns. I have taken this idea and turned it on its head by using a known to make unknowns.
During the residency, I have developed a series of articulated handheld hinged structures. These are derived from what I call 'laboratory choreography'. Whilst attending practical demonstrations I had the sensation of my mind slightly drifting as yet another truly extraordinary piece of information was imparted but which I was unable to fully comprehend.  In an attempt to grasp an understanding I started to watch the hands of the demonstrator, there was an urgency as they used every facility they had to communicate. This space of not knowing appeared to enable a thought, to explore how whilst in the lab scientific concepts and lab processes are communicated through subconscious hand gestures.
I have been mapping the hand gestures within the lab that are created whilst explaining scientific processes and creating structures that represented these movements. These structures represent the knowns, something tangible that I grasped as an entry to understanding.
With spray paint standing in for electrons I have used these known forms as a masking tool to make fragmented images that are now unknown but have a sense of having to be remade or reconstructed in the mind. This is the essence of the challenge addressed in tomographic reconstruction where a 3D object is remade from a series of 2D images or projections, the ambiguity in the structure that produces each individual projection creating a “projection problem”.
I see these images and the process I have created as an entry point into understanding the challenges in relating a structure to the signal created by probing it and how translation can be used to make the invisible visible and the complex understandable.

Saturday, 27 May 2017


a great day in Cambridge - the day has seen a number of finished or I should say resolved moments with the work but it also presented a huge number of new possibilities - working with Richard attempting to wire up a bookwork whose structure initially referenced the glovebox, so that the form when manipulated makes contact between two 'probes' which will create a circuit so that we can play sound using graphine printing. We are looking to take this into two directions. The first is to have a spoken word piece around nanotechnology and graphine printing, the second is to work with a 'sound maker' to play a number of them within a sort of 'set'.The 3D printing with David is becoming very strange, we are trying to use the printer to create structures that explore the qualities of the printing. Next we are going to tessellate it to create a grid, exploring how the structure can be manipulated pulling it along different lines. Looking at the idea of impossible structures in our conversation today we realised that we had in fact printed a so called impossible structure. Whilst manipulating the piece we decided that the real work has become the projection or shadow created when a light is thrown onto it. This links with the work I'm doing with Duncan through crystallography, exploring projection symmetry. It was great to show some finished work and get positive feedback about how I have taken our conversations and made art

We had an interesting conversation around how material is categorised at a molecular level most people don't see and linking it to the topology thinking Pitt Rivers used around his work with museology and Darwin informed evolutionary morphology. Which of course led to The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge a fictitious taxonomy of animals described by the writer Jorge Luis Borges in his 1942 essay "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" The list divides all animals into 14 categories:

Those that belong to the emperor
Embalmed ones
Those that are trained
Suckling pigs
Mermaids (or Sirens)
Fabulous ones
Stray dogs
Those that are included in this classification
Those that tremble as if they were mad
Innumerable ones
Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
Those that have just broken the flower vase
Et cetera
Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


today has been all about design - organising all the information panels for the exhibitions. attempting to find a language or a tone that explains both the art and the science is an interesting balancing act.

Friday, 19 May 2017


It was informative to speak at The Making Material Matters Teachers conference at Ironmongers Hall in London.  The space was truly magnificent and the whole event was so well planned.  It was great to hear positive feedback of what we've been doing at the Maxwell. The collaborative nature of the project and the way it has enabled and nurtured voices from different fields especially from outside were seen as positive and in some cases revelatory. It was wonderful to hear the circular thoughts around material development in the future from Professor Mark Miodownik and the enthusiasm levels emanating from Professor Becky Parker made me almost want to become a scientist. A link to the presentation.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017


I've spent the day in the studio 'printing' the work for corridors around the rooms that house the microscopy labs in the materials science and metallurgy building on the West Cambridge site - looking good 

Monday, 15 May 2017