Honoured to have The Forms installed in the magnificent Wells Cathedral as part of Wells Art Contemporary

The immutable truths Plato discovered in geometry belong to the realm of abstract thought and ideals he called The Forms. Twelve pentagons form a dodecahedron which Plato defined as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

Today it is dark matter that science believes holds the stars in the heavens. In visualisations of dark matter created from cosmological data provided to me by KIPAC Stanford University, we see familiar organic patterns emerge; the fronds of dark matter spanning between galaxies could be the spreading branches of trees or the veins under our skin.

In Plato’s the allegory of the cave, those in the cave mistake shadows thrown by the fire onto the cave wall as reality; in a similar way we are guessing what dark matter is from the shadows we see, such as gravitational lensing and galaxy rotation curves.

Thrilled with the location of my work in the Lady Chapel, interacting with the patterns and geometry of the Minton tiled floor.

Working on Breath of Stars – making a data base of video clips which will be accessed and play for 12 seconds every time a cosmic ray event is recorded by the detectors. The star bursts are made from cloud chamber footage. The size of the star burst will relate to the amplitude of the cosmic ray that hits the scintillator plastic. More energy = bigger starburst.

Testing testing. Running the cosmic ray detectors at my studio to see if I get similar results to at home and yes, seems fairly consistent. Maybe slightly more hits. Thinner roof!

Exciting developments in the acid room etching the directional magnetic steel sample I have been given. Trying to uncover the grain structure like a jigsaw pattern of this magical matter hidden under a grey coating. I had no luck trying to reveal the pattern just by sanding. I then tried sanding the coating away quite aggressively and etching in 1:4 nitric acid for 10 minutes. This did reveal the hidden structure but not very cleanly and weirdly sanding or polishing after etching made the pattern disappear again.

Then I tried finer sanding plus 10 minutes in a copper sulphate solution with just a careful wipe with a sponge to clean the plate and was quite happy how things were progressing. I quite like the coppery tinge.

I discovered the pattern comes from rolling single crystals of an iron silicon alloy into thin sheets to minimise magnetic losses for use in transformers. I decided to have another try with nitric acid on a larger piece just to compare but had very poor results.

An attempt with copper sulphate again on a larger piece this time wasn’t quite so clean as before although the structure is visible. I am wondering if there is a better side to etch – both sides look the same but maybe there is a difference in how deep the structure is hidden.

Working through some ideas for a proposal has helped with focus for video work using iron filings over a boulder (made from paper clay) set in a cave. Working title Belly of a Rock which will be a video sculpture.

The same with some experiments with vessels and salt crystals. Exploring possibilites.

Out of Studio

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Favourite stands were obviously those with a connection to magnets or cosmic rays.

Exciting research from a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, Keele University and
MICA Biosystems on remote controlled healing to treat spinal injuries and tissue regeneration using ground-breaking advances in nanotechnology and magnetics.

Magnetic nanoparticles exhibit superparamagnetism, meaning that these tiny magnetic particles flip magnetic orientation between north and south rapidly at random appearing to be non-magnetic unless subjected to a magnetic field. When a magnetic field is applied, the particles’ ‘north’ and ‘south’ align with the field direction, turning the nanoparticles’ magnetic properties ‘on’. By binding these nanoparticles to stem cells and injecting them into the body they can be directed to the target injury site using a controlled magnetic field outside the body. Once at the injury site the magnetic force can be turned on and off to stimulate the cells controlling cell behaviour and biological pathways speeding up the healing process.

When a meteoroid survives a trip through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it’s called a meteorite.

The Natural History Museum were displaying meteorite samples including a large fragment of the Winchcombe meteorite, an extremely rare carbonaceous chondrite observed entering the Earth’s atmosphere as a fireball over Gloucestershire at 21:54 hours on 28 February 2021 and landing in a family home driveway. It was the first time in 30 years, a meteorite has been recovered in the UK. It’s unexpected arrival from the asteroid belt near Jupiter was captured on a system of UK Fireball Alliance cameras as well as local CCTV and doorbell cameras.

Most iron meteorites are thought to be the cores of asteroids that melted early in their history. The crystal structure (image left) known as Widmanstätten patterns in iron meteors forms from criss-cross plates of an iron-nickel alloy. Slicing the meteor at various angles reveals different patterns.

I was informed that this texture was made visible by etching the meteorite in hydrofluoric acid though it may also need polishing. This made me hopeful to reveal the hidden structure of the directional magnetic steel sample (image right) provided to me by Union Steel Products which is currently hidden by an opaque grey coating over a thin layer of smooth steel. I first saw this type of extra magnetic steel at the National Physical Laboratory open day. It is no longer manufactured in the UK and so am grateful for the sample.

Very excited to talk to Lancaster University about their new Extreme Space Weather Monitoring research. The first international network of ground-level neutron detectors to measure the number of high-energy charged particles striking the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space was established in 1957 but these used toxic materials and are costly to run so many were decommissioned. There are only 50 left worldwide and none in the UK. Lancaster are developing a new-generation radiation detector intended to help protect safety-critical systems and national infrastructure against the effects of severe space weather. Space radiation can affect aircraft systems, communications, and cause current surges in power grids and other ground-level systems. There are significant risks to the infrastructures we rely on in daily life so predicting solar storms could provide a warning to shut down or move vulnerable systems before they get hit.

I asked Professor of Space Physics Jim Wild and his colleague Andrew Parker from the school of engineering radiation protection dept. about the event count for my own cosmic ray detector and they thought it sounded about right. As I cannot be sure of the quality of my plastic scintillator the count may not be scientifically accurate in measuring all events but I can feel confident that events I do record and will use to trigger code to display video starbursts are from direct contact with a particle that has travelled from outer space.

Alienarium 5 Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster at Serpentine Gallery. Managed to miss the seductive glimpse of The Closed Planet and any holograms but did experience the VR though connections promised with other alien beings failed to materialize – there were other forms floating in the distance but no way to communicate. I suppose this reinforced the difficulty of cross being communication. The reading list turned to cushions had become a toddler soft play area and while the 360 panorama was impressive in scale and content included it felt ‘educational’ as opposed to enlightening.

Theaster Gates, the Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel draws inspiration from many of the architectural typologies that ground the artist’s practice. It is impressive in scale and simplicity.

I am a big fan of Lindsay Seers work and loved the Artangel commission Nowhere Less Now at The Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn in 2012.

This was my post at the time;

Lindsay Seers work is narrative but is not a linear story. The past present and future entwine with the thoughts of multiple characters. Everything is connected but like in a dream those connections are just beyond grasp as they shift and change and merge. I wasn’t sure if I fell asleep or not, my eyes seemed to be open but I had those moments of falling from consciousness being tucked up in a warm blanket can induce. The haunting sea shanty played in the headphones ‘ the sea will take her slender body..’ over and over, a narrative from one side in Seers soft tone then someone speaks abruptly from behind, another voice is heard at a a distance, some music starts up and all the while the dual projections onto giant convex and concave spheres in the disorienting location of an upside down ships hull sweeps through history into a CGI future and back to the present. We were given a free book on exit, it is another layer to the whole experience and I have no idea what is true and what is fiction, this means the fantastical can appear to be reality and I like that. There are many things to wonder about in Lindsay Seers work. In Seers work the explanation about the work is part of the work and so may be just a fiction as much as the work itself.

Jump ten years to Cold Light a collaboration with Keith Sargent at Matt’s Gallery in their new swanky location at Nine Elms. Subtle intervention has been sacrificed for the installation which is engaging on a different more immediate sensory level of flashing lights on shiny objects. The work is inspired by the futurist Nikola Tesla and his experiments with electricity in the early part of the 20th century. Cold light refers to light produced electrically rather than by fire. The use of low-fi silver foil and extractor vent tubing, along with scaffolding and clunky robotics give an impression of the home inventor. This would have looked futuristic in Tesla’s lifetime. I experienced the VR CGI environment, it was cold place emotionally despite the pigeons which were apparently Tesla’s true love. Is this the CGI future alluded to in past work?

Fabulous work from Grace Ndiritu An Absolute River at Lux. An Absolute River’s title derives from Borges’ theories on the fluidity of time. Borges features as a fictional protagonist in Ndiritu’s Black Beauty, and his notion of “An Absolute River” was inspired by Heraclitus’ “No Man ever Steps in the Same River Twice”. Her films blur the lines between different time frames and explore themes of media, authorship and historical narratives, whilst expanding on notions of temporality. Her work is so good.

SPACE IS THE PLACE

What a joy to experience The Sun Ra Arkestra

In some far off place
Many light years in space
I’ll wait for you
Where human feet have never trod
Where human eyes have never seen
I’ll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you

The Ruins of Time at St. Augustine’s Tower, Hackney. “Tower” is part four of the “Ruins of Time” project, organized by LME (London – Munich Exchange) exploring the passage of time and its specific expression in the place, space and architecture of the site. Curated by Eleonora Bourmistrov and Milena Michalski who are exhibiting alongside Myra Brooklyn, Risha Gorig, Angelika Hofmann, Monika Kita, Brigitte C. Reichl, and Marcia Teusink. Many thoughtful works and a marvellous installation from Eleonora Bourmistrov.

The London Group exhibition including work from Victoria Arney (birdsong translated into woodcuts), Carol Wyss (examining the ribcage as protective enfolding), Sandra Crisp (blender generated molecules with embedded culture – a culture with culture) and Beverley Duckworth (Dust from the Sahara) in Catch Your Breath at Morley Gallery.

‘Catching one’s breath can happen if surprised, impressed or even shocked by something, such as an extraordinary object or image stumbled upon that instantaneously changes a familiar viewpoint. It can also be a time to pause or reflect and take stock.’

Working on The Breath of Stars I have been thinking about the breath and its active nature and inter-actions so it was interesting to see the many interpretations here.

Cloud Point at Paradise Row curated by Nicolas Bourriaud in collaboration with Radicants.

Text from the Gallery:

The artists (Nicolas Aguirre, Hicham Berrada, Marieke Bernard Berkel, Alice Channer, Pakui Hardware, My-Lan Hoang-Thuy, Zarah Landes, Estrid Lutz, Tala Madani, Pamela Rosenkranz) in this exhibition belong to a generation for whom no material is natural anymore. Matter, in its totality, is both form and content, subject and object, nature and culture. In other words, there is no neutral background in today’s images, but streams and active forces.

Cloud Point gathers artists who don’t consider objects, products or masses in their work, but rather the atomic structure of our surroundings, and theirs. They are particularly interested in the in-betweens — processes of liquefaction, moments of coagulation, condensation points… The emergence of this molecular gaze in contemporary art also reflects in theory and politics.

Politics goes molecular as Felix Guattari had already stated, in the 1970’s, talking about a necessary ‘molecular revolution’. We see how gas, oil, bacterias, viruses or chemicals become the new agents of History. Zygmunt Bauman analysed postmodern capitalism as a process of liquefaction of our institutions. Today Karen Barad describes matter, at its molecular stage, as pure ‘queerness’. And according to Rosa Braidotti, ‘Capital seeks and reduces body fluids to merchandise: the sweat and cheap blood of the labor force available throughout the Third World; but also the fluids of the desire of First World consumers who reduce their existence to a commodity by transforming it into a hyper-saturated state of confusion.’

I have returned to my BA dissertation from 2007 The Communication of Ecological Concerns Through Contemporary Artistic Practice to look at excerpts where I discussed the theories of Nicolas Bourriaud.

‘The intertwining of ecological and political processes with artistic practises is explored in conjunction with the particular theories of Bruno Latour, Nicolas Bourriaud and Zygmunt Bauman. These writers all speak of a need to establish new ways of communicating about the complexities of our relationships to our environments as we move through different spaces to those of the past. In light of this necessity, the precarious balance an artist must achieve to engage a contemporary urban audience with an environmental message, without losing sight of their aesthetic, or becoming embroiled in the nullifying production of commodity, is debated.’

‘Bourriaud documents the shift in focus from the visual to the relational during the 1990’s when new forms of communication  available through modern technologies coincided with an economic depression. For the artist there was a lack of funding for the spectacular but also the opportunity to experiment with spaces previously given over to exchange and barter. The artists took as their medium something they found lacking in  other areas of daily life; social relations which did not involve supplier-customer exchanges. The loss of personal interactions from daily life as more and more functions were performed by or through machines and computers were reborn in the processes of participatory practises where the audience was invited to experience rather than behold.’

‘An artwork’s short life span is not necessarily a reflection of the insatiable appetite of the gallery going public to consume and discard art as any other commodity. In using relational aesthetics the artist deliberately steps outside of this cycle. Artists who base their practises on exchanges of experience and communication through tangible means which have no value as art outside a temporal set of circumstances give the public a chance to experience a different type of social bond. From the ethos of relational aesthetics is born the possibility of art infecting the collective subjectivity. Artists whose work sidesteps the rules of the market place create a ‘social interstice,’ a small space in which to explore relations with the world. An interstice does not operate in the same way as a message, which is akin to advertising and belongs in the world of marketing. The space created must be inviting or intriguing to draw the audience into a realm of possibility, to start a conversation not give a lecture.’


I selected seven works alongside my own for an informal tour at Wells Art Contemporary to promote conversations inspired by the works. Shield – Peter Newell-Price, Chronologer (chalk and bone) – Paul Tuppeny, Screw Up Repeat – Kate McDonnell, Beneath the Heavens III – Kaori Homma, Route 339 – John Ball, Everyone was a bird – Caro Williams, Two-Sided I & II – Aliceson Carter.

Out of thousands of submissions, this year’s judging panel, Matthew Burrows MBE, Dale Lewis and Nana Shiomi, selected a shortlist of 120 artworks by 111 artists for the 2022 exhibition.

29 site-specific installations have also been selected by Clare Burnett and Jacquiline Creswell to stand as interventional responses to the architectural, spatial and spiritual aspects of Wells Cathedral.

New work has been framed – these pieces consider the potential for the human eye to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field. Research shows birds have this capability activated by molecules in the retina of the eye when excited by blue light. The molecules produce radical pair electrons sensitive to the magnetic field and as these molecules are found within the photoreceptor cells it is possible birds may visualise the magnetic field lines to aid navigation. A similar molecule is also found in the human eye and I am speculating that this is a sense we may once have experienced and could tap into again. It is of course the brain that must receive a signal from the eye by which we see. Independently of the cryptochrome molecule, research monitoring alpha wave activity shows the human brain does appear to be sensitive to a magnetic field albeit unconsciously.

The Compass Eye Etching with chinagraph pencil, magnets, iron filings

Pole Receptor 2022 27 x 27 x 3 cm Etching, magnet and iron filings

Framework made a neat job of the frames enabling the magnets to be released to reset the iron filings if necessary. The Compass Eye doesn’t have glass and maybe that was a mistake but I prefer the thin frame.

Progress is being made on new work Breath of Stars. This will be a screen based work triggered by cosmic ray activity. Every time an event is registered by a photomultiplier attached to a 5cm square piece of plastic scintillator, a star burst video image will flash up on the screen. The size of the starburst will correspond to the energy of the particle that has just arrived from space. The starburst videos are made in Adobe After Effects using footage from my cloud chamber experiments.

I have got some help with coding from gaming programmer Jamie Howard so am not feeling so out of my depth in the python maze. One problem we may have though is the shortage of Raspberry Pi processors. It could be months before we are able to get one with a high enough spec to process the video layering. In the meantime I am testing ideas and creating video clips.

It was wonderful to see so many people visiting the first Open Studios at Thames-side since 2019 despite the rail strike difficulties that weekend. The Compass Eye was hanging in the Thames-side Gallery Studio Holders Showcase exhibition. Thank you to everyone who came to visit and found their way to my studio, it was great to discuss everything from Plato to Planck.

Super happy to have my video Cosmic Chiasmus: crossing the universe included in the May Fair Showreel screening at the very smart May Fair Theatre as part of Mayfair Art Weekend. The departure point for the curated selection was the word ‘PROCESS’, which was inspired by the video work by Wolf Vostell, Auto-Faber (1973). It was a great experience to see all the amazing nominated films and meet the selectors -Elisa Tosoni, Angel Leung and Eugene Macki and art weekend project manager Cheri Silver.

What a lovely write up in the Winchester School of Art Yearbook 2022 from one of the Fine Art students on the Images In The Making sessions that I ran.

I am delighted that my installation The Forms has been selected for exhibition in the splendid Wells Cathedral as part of Wells Art Contemporary 2022.

Twelve aluminium plates in the shape of pentagons that together make up the net of a dodecahedron have been deep etched with imagery taken from data visualisation of dark matter provided to me by KIPAC, Stanford University. The etching process used a screen printed sugar lift technique where the bite was allowed to penetrate completely through the plate leaving holes in some areas.

Excited to be selected for a satellite exhibition at the international print conference IMPACT12 to be installed at a former police station in Bristol. At a distance will be shown in The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity, an exhibition which seeks to reframe printmaking as a site of interdisciplinarity – a testing ground for ‘The important work…done at the surfaces between adjacent disciplines’ (Carter, 1998).

Drawing on the physical language of print that embodies touch, separation and mirroring the semaphore flags in this work have been printed using hand painted dye sublimation inks applied via a heat press. This process transfers the ink from a paper matrix onto the substrate textile. The image passes momentarily across space in a dematerialized state as vapour before being reformed as its mirror opposite.

Out of Studio

Billed as an immersive experience like no other Dreamachine offers a unique journey into the potential of your mind. Stimulated by strobe lighting playing rhythms on your eyelids and spatial sound fed directly into your ears, your mind creates its own images behind closed eyes. Inspired by a 1959 invention from artist–inventor Brion Gysin it has been reimagined by Collective Act, in collaboration with Turner Prize-winning artists Assemble, Grammy and Mercury nominated composer Jon Hopkins, and a team of leading technologists, scientists and philosophers.

It was pretty amazing. From a deep orange glow of swirling matter kaleidoscopic shapes emerge with geometric patterns that form and explode into vibrant pulsating honeycomb structures. Felt sure I was seeing some of my recent work in there. Swept away on a tide of colour with a big smile it was like a roller coaster ride through the forming of a technicolour universe. Wonderful.

Interesting to read that the frequency range of light emitted by Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine corresponds to alpha waves, electrical oscillations normally present in the human brain while relaxing. The pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. I have been looking at scientific research that explores a connection between the Earth’s magnetic field and human vision when stimulated by blue or polarised light depending on the orientation of the viewer. The human brain’s alpha waves can be seen to react to the local geomagnetic field. Some research correlates the nature of our dreams to magnetic field activity with calmer dreams resulting from high activity and more bizarre dreams when activity is low.

Going from Dreamachine to Libby Heaney’s quantum world of morphing fluid shapeshifting worlds The Evolution of Ent @Arebyte was a nice continuation of mind bending immersion.

Ent-er. Ent-anglements. Ent-ropy. Ent-wining. Ent- hralling. Ent-icing.

Looking at the potential futures created by quantum computing where the digital mode of binary gives way to superposition and quantum entanglement. Daniel Cavalcanti has provided a useful quantum glossary in the exhibition catalogue. Explaining superposition as like looking through a window and seeing outside and yourself reflected simultaneously, two configurations happening at the same time.

I was very excited to visit The World of Stonehenge at The British Museum to see the Nebra Sky Disc, having been introduced to the existence of this amazing object by archaeoastronomer Carolyn Kennett while on the Lizard Point Residency in 2019. Found by metal detectorists in Germany the gold used in this ancient map of the cosmos can be traced to Cornwall.

Carolyn explaining the history of this most ancient of cosmological objects.

The actual disc was much larger than I expected and almost translucently thin.

Six thousand years ago in the final 1,500 years of the stone age was the British Neolithic period. A time of stone axes for chopping. Woodlands cleared for farming. Stone held meaning. Offerings were made to spirits. Hundreds of stone and wooden circles were raised across the land. A cosmic inversion, connecting earth to sky. The first stones were brought to Stonehenge about 5000 years ago to create a burial ground which was transformed 500 years later into the symbolic site where the large sarsen stones were placed in alignment with the sun as it rises at midsummer solstice and sets in midwinter. Some astonishing objects in the exhibition, the power of the sun celebrated and reflected in gold.

I had high hopes for Our Time on Earth exhibition in the Barbican Curve – the aim was for technology to bring us closer to nature and highlight our place as one species among millions of others, striving to live together in a delicate balance. There was some enticing imagery and interesting ideas but as an experience it was tech overload, information overload all crammed into quite a tight space. Too much to take in and too removed from a lived time on Earth for me to engage and absorb anything meaningful.

Postwar Modern at the Barbican Gallery explores the art produced in Britain between 1945 and 1965 in the wake of a cataclysmic war. Including; Denis Williams Painting in Six Related Rhythms 1954; Eduardo Paolozzi Will Man Outgrow The Earth? collage form the series Bunk 1952/1971; the lovely Aphra Shemza’s grandfather Anwar Jalal Shemza painting fusing Western ideas of abstraction with Eastern influence and Gustav Metzger Liquid Crystal Environment  made using heat-sensitive liquid crystals that are placed between glass slides and inserted into projectors where they are are rotated to create movement within the liquid causing the crystals to change colour as they are heated and cooled.

I was fascinated to learn about the numbering system used by Cistercian Monks while visiting the impressive ruins of 12th century Cleeve Abbey in Somerset. A single cypher can represent numbers up to 9999.

The abbey church was destroyed by Henry VIII during the dissolution in 1536 but the cloister buildings, gatehouse, 15th century refectory and 13th century heraldic tiles survived destruction as they were being used as farm buildings at the time and it’s ancient tiled floor was protected from the elements by a cabbage field.

Lode – a way or path, a watercourse, a vein of metallic ore.

A lodestone is a naturally occurring magnet possibly created by a lightning strike. Early compasses were made of lodestone suspended on a cord.

Magnetite is a common mineral that has an attraction to a magnet but is not magnetic in itself.

The image shows magnetite, sold on eBay as a Lodestone though at £2 what did I expect.

Fluid activity hidden deep in the Earth’s interior can be visualised through plotting the magnetic field and its fluctuations.

The geomagnetic field, generated by the Earth’s molten core, varies through time; the magnetic poles migrate, go on excursions or reverse polarity. During these periods of flux the strength of the magnetic field changes and this phenomenon is recorded in archaeological artifacts, volcanic rocks, and sediments. The mineral deposits of stalactites store a paleomagnetic history of declination (the deviation of magnetic from geographic north).

Thinking about how magnetic pole reversals are stored in geology. I am modelling some paper clay rocks for future filming visualising the magnetic field using iron filings.

Early navigators using the compass around the 15th century became aware that geomagnetic north would roam position. In 1701 the first map charting the magnetic field declination was produced by British astronomer Edmund Halley.

In the 19th century the study of geomagnetism became one of many passions for explorer polymath Alexander von Humboldt who studied

“what keeps the innermost of the world together, how all is woven together”

and was the first to connect climate with interactions between atmosphere, oceans, land and plant ecology. From meticulous observations he noticed the Earth’s magnetic field intensity increases from the equator to the pole, and that it was also influenced by auroras and solar activity causing magnetic storms.

Magnetic observatories to monitor the Earth’s magnetic field were set up around the globe including one at Greenwich which had to relocate twice due to infrastructure interference (electric railways) and is now based in Devon with a permanent azimuth mark on a concrete obelisk viewed from the north window of the Absolute Hut. I wonder if it is possible to visit.

Magnetotactic bacteria align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate using nanoparticles of magnetite crystals covered in biological material called magnetosomes. Each nanoparticle is about 100,000 times smaller than a grain of rice. They are mostly found in water and sediment with little or no oxygen. It has been found that magnetosomes can be biodegraded (dissolved) in human stem cells losing magnetism at first but then reforming into human cells with magnetic sensitive qualities.

There is a daily variation in the magnetosphere caused by sunlight hitting the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere about 1000km up. The electrical conductivity of this layer is affected by the solar wind which pressures and squashes the field on the sunlit side while creating a magnetotail pluming from the dark side of the Earth.

Capturing garden activity through the solar cycle with a spycam.

The rotation of the Earth around its axis results in a molecular clock evolved by organisms in alignment with the solar cycle. The Earth’s magnetic field can influence animals’ circadian clocks, through the photoreceptor cryptochrome, which is activated by blue light.

I have recently acquired a drone and have been for a couple of practice flights in Richmond Park’s designated area taking along a few pentagon mirrors. Excited by the possibilities.

Up at 5am to see the tiny points of light that are Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction which they performed the following morning hidden by clouds

Research trip to RSPB Snettisham in North Norfolk to see the Whirling Wader Spectacle. The high spring tides push the birds from their feeding grounds on the mudflats of The Wash onto the lagoons of the reserve. The spectacle occurs when the tide is super high during daylight hours in early spring or late autumn when the birds are migrating to and from this site. It is surprising how fast the tide comes in. On arrival in the early evening the sea is a distant strip of light.

Suddenly the gullies are filling and the first murmurations of knots are forming low over the incoming water. The speed of the birds is extraordinary. I was totally ill equipped to capture the spectacle on video.

Fascinating research discussed in the webinar Scientific American live: Bird Migration and Song featuring Professor of Chemistry University of Oxford, Peter Hore, an expert on magnetoreception.

Radicals are molecules that contain an odd number of electrons and are therefore unstable. For most molecules the electrons are paired which cancels out the magnetic force. Birds use three different compasses to navigate across the globe; the sun, the stars and the magnetic field. The Artic tern makes the longest migratory journey, a staggering 25,000 miles.

The theory that birds may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate began in the middle of the 19th century, but experiments in Germany with European Robins in the 1960s were the first to prove the connection. The Earth’s magnetic field is extremely weak so the mechanism that can detect this weak force must be very sensitive. Because free radicals are very unstable it doesn’t take much energy to have big effects. The particular cryptochrome molecule used is found in the retina of the eye with the photoreceptor cells. Blue light shined onto Cryptochrome 4 produces radical pairs which are sensitive to the magnetic field. It is excited by blue light but does not respond to red light. The molecules work like a pendant compass, distinguishing the direction of the magnetic field towards pole or equator. This feature arises from the spin direction of the free radical pairs. Both radicals may spin in the same direction or one may spin one way and the other the opposite. There is a lot of processing in the eye before a signal is sent to the brain to act upon.

It is possible birds form a visual perception of the magnetic field. The cone cells in the eye are used by day but may be taken over at night for navigation as this is when birds migrate. Light pollution and electromagnetic noise pollution such as AM radio masts can cause disorientation.

I still have questions about how the birds know where to head for. They may have a map but they still need a destination.

Stunning North Norfolk coastline. It’s so flat here that cliffs are unexpected. Hunstanton Beach was once under a tropical sea 108 million years ago when sea levels were 200m higher. Somewhere in these strata evidence of magnetic pole reversals will be stored.

So much to explore at the National Physical Laboratory Open Day but my favourite room was Magnetic Materials and Sensors. They don’t allow any photography so I can’t share some of the amazing experiments I saw but I have been able to recreate my favourite as it was also the simplest; a magnet dropped into a copper pipe creates an electric current as it falls which gently slows its progress through the tube. So cool. I will be filming this.

Experiments with lenses. It’s often the way that having spent time on a proposal that doesn’t get accepted those ideas do not get wasted but ultimately feed into new work.

Testing ‘The Forms’ as a floor piece.

The immutable truths Plato discovered in geometry belong to the realm of abstract thought and ideals he called The Forms. Twelve pentagons form a dodecahedron which Plato defined as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’ Today it is dark matter that science believes holds the stars in the heavens. In visualisations of dark matter created from cosmological data we see familiar organic patterns emerge; the fronds of dark matter spanning between galaxies could be the spreading branches of trees or the veins under our skin.

Thanks to KIPAC Stanford University for the data visualisations.

Enjoyed a one day 3D Geometry class with Leila Dear at the Princes School of Traditional Arts. I gained so much from the RCA exchange week here that fed into my work for the past several years that I thought a refresher would be useful – and that was before I knew we would be making geometric bubbles. Irresistible.

Out of Studio

Reflections at Workplace Gallery

Sculpture by women artists Nicola Ellis, Hsi-Nong Huang, Patricia Ayres and Olivia Bax.

All works offer up a satisfying conjunction of materiality and form but especially loving Nicola’s ‘Quite a Structure’ which is like a slice of the Earth’s molten core.

HEAVEN NEITHER BURNING FARTHER at The Crypt, St. John on Bethnal Green

Erika Blumenfeld writes “The material comprising our bodies shares cosmic origins with the material comprising the planets, asteroids and comets in our solar system. Scientifically, this material, having derived from distant stars across time, threads back to the primordial material that emerged moments after our universe burst into being. Culturally, our star gazing has filled us with wonder across all civilizations, sparking art and architecture, philosophy and science, mythology, folklore as well as navigation and place-making”.

Visual journeys have been created using the archive, modern science, performative poetry, scanned glacier-ice sent by image transmission, laser-based mapping originally sourced from the Rosetta space mission, the use of historic adaptations, the layering of earthly minerals, and a hunt for asteroid fragments. Held in a crypt under-ground the exhibition takes a poignant look at the myth and science that surround comets, which in theory brought life to Earth but could also end it.

Artists: Julie F Hill, Leah Beeferman, Barry Stone, Pedro Torres, Fryd Frydendahl, Ports Bishop, Claudio Pogo & Magdalena Wysocka Curated by Lucy Helton

Fascinating and beautiful work in this subterranean gateway to the cosmos which rewards following up each artist’s research.

POST TOTEM at OHSH Projects pop up on Oxford Street, curated by Adam Dix and Dale Adcock.
I found the concept of this exhibition very appealing. Reaching back to what connects us. Some innate sense of the sacred.

‘Imagine an artist holding the metaphorical hand of an artist from the previous generation and that artist, doing the same, and so on, back through time, back 30 to 40 thousand years into the unimaginably distant past, when we made the great cave paintings of Lascaux and Maros-Pangkep karst. This imaginative exercise creates an image of an unbroken woven human connection, stretching back through time uniting, individuals into a group, linked by imagination, action and materials.’

Artists showing: Dale Adcock, Simon Burton, Adam Dix, Tim Ellis, Lisa Ivory, Simon Burton, Rachel Howard, Henry Hussey, Dean Melbourne, Yelena Popova, Chantal Powell, Joanna Rajkowska, Alexis Soul Gray, Suzanne Treister.

Seth Price – Art Is Not Human at Sadie Coles

An interesting entanglement of hand and digital process. Raw paintings are photographed and imported to a 3D digital space of geometric shapes, tubes and directional lighting. The effects are then exported and printed onto the original painting.

Melanie Manchot Alpine Diskomiks at Parafin.

Questioning the mediation of the mountain experience. A mountain skyline created from album covers and soundscape from the combined mix of recorded content. Imagine a steady build of music to accompany the climb to a dramatic mountain peak and the overwhelming crescendo as you reach that majestic summit of the sublime. Downstairs choreographed snowploughs score grooves in looping folkdance sequence.

This painting by Luchita Hurtado at Hauser and Wirth made me think of the practical demonstration by Brian Cox showing that in a vacuum a feather and a rock (bowling ball) would fall at the same speed.

 “The reason the bowling ball and the feather fall together is because they’re not falling. They are standing still. There is no force acting on them at all.”

“(Einstein) reasoned that if you couldn’t see the background, there would be no way of knowing that the ball and the feathers were accelerating toward the Earth.”

Larry Bell at Hauser and Wirth

‘Although we tend to think of glass as a window, it is a solid liquid that has at once three distinctive qualities: it reflects light, it absorbs light, and it transmits light all at the same time.’ Larry Bell

Everything is Made of Light at Bermondsey Project Space. The artists refer to Jacques Rancière, in his essay, Are Some Things Unrepresentable?, who scrutinizes the challenges faced by images in depicting the world around us.

Mark Kasumovic tackles the problem of trying to represent the invisible through a juxtaposition of images of spaces of discovery and text listing scientific non sequiturs. Mary O’Neill presents us with a world of fragments from which personal narratives must be assembled. Isabella Streffen’s work explores perception and the spaces between digital and emotional communication. Matthew Pell stretches time through capturing light in otherwise transient momentary events.

I felt very in tune with intent of the work here. Particularly Mark Kasumovic’s texts that felt like a snapshot of a research artist’s notebook. All those tantalising lines of enquiry. I liked the premise from Mary O’Neill of the introduction of creatures from the mundanity of an overlooked life, that when situated in a new context, conceive paradise.

Marcus Cope Silver Linings at Peer

Fabulous potent paintings of those vivid memories that are seared into the synapses from times of heightened emotions.

Beautiful and terrible.

Alice Bucknell Swamp City at Hoxton 253 Project Space

Like a dollop of dream topping on a large turd the work offers up a speculative future of luxury ecotourism as investment opportunity in the face of a climate crisis that feels almost inevitable.

Charlotte Johannesson Circuit at Hollybush Gardens.

“Nature speaks in symbols and signs.”

Evolution from weave to code and back again. Beautiful works full of metaphor and shared history.

Reading – Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Wall Kimmerer; reciprocity – don’t take more than you need and always give something back.

Mercurius Patrick Harpur; no easy route to the conjunction of soul, spirit and matter.

Delighted that my film Cosmic Chiasmus: crossing the universe was screened at Contemporary Calgary Gallery for the 2022 Particle + Wave Festival

The Particle + Wave Festival is an annual media arts festival held by EMMEDIA with exhibitions, screenings and audiovisual performances by local, national and international media artists at multiple art venues around Calgary, Alberta.

The Earth is continuously being bombarded by a flux of particles called cosmic rays. Now that I have the Cosmic Ray Detectors counting particle events and flashing LED’s I am thinking about the design of the encasement for them. Trying to decide between something smooth and technical or something more alchemical looking. At the moment it is just cardboard with two printers loupe lenses.

Progress has been made getting the python script running to write the event data directly to a computer. I have Mami Fukunaga to thank for this.

Comp_date Comp_time Event Ardn_time[ms] ADC[0-1023] SiPM[mV] Deadtime[ms] Temp[C] Name

2022-04-07 11:20:50.567000 1   624                174                     29.79     726              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:50.717000 2   775                88 2                  0.96        730              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:51.430000 3   1487                49                    15.48     916              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:52.437000 4   2493               403                   88.99   1102              20.90 susan1

The next step is to look at writing new script to read the recorded energy of the particle data and trigger another programme for a visual effect. The visual effect will respond the energy value of the particle.

The highest energy cosmic ray observed, named the Oh-My-God-Particle, was measured to be equivalent to a brick falling on your toe, all contained in a single proton.

There are so many ways that cosmic rays impact life on Earth and in space, from the dangers of radiation to enabling carbon dating techniques or corrupting computer processor data and new technologies are engaging with them for exploration and navigation.

Muon tomography uses cosmic ray muons to generate three-dimensional images of internal geological or manmade structures and now cosmic-ray muon radiography is being investigated to allow navigation underwater and in areas where there are not so many GPS satellites such as the Arctic.

The system known as the muometric positioning system (muPS) is in development by UK based company Geoptic along with international partners. Early technology allowed for non-invasive imaging of critical infrastructure, such as railway tunnels, to identify areas of concern such as hidden voids.

The technique is being further refined using 1 metre square scintillation detectors positioned so that when a muon shower occurs the source and time is recorded and the data triangulated using atomic clocks accurate to 10 billionth of a second to determine location. In the future muPS may even provide navigation for uncrewed submarines. Links to research here Underwater positioning system. High Latitude positioning system.

Out of studio

Visiting Tate Modern

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Pentagon 2008

Pat Steir Long Vertical Falls – aquatint and etching 1991

and exploded bling spectacle from Yayoi Kusama in the mirror rooms

Cloud Sediments – Hyphen Lab at Ambika P3

Part of Ecological Futures collective of international researchers and artists exploring modes of togetherness in the face of adversity. More info here

Urgent works deciphering many current causes for concern emphasised by being submerged and overwhelmed by ecological, social and political crises in this cavernous underground space awash with water/world problems swelling and rising.

London Mithraeum

Who knows what went on in this boys club nearly 2000 years ago. The cult of Mithras, a mystery religion practised from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD., also known as the Mysteries of Mithras; its origins are uncertain and what is known is pieced together from archeological discoveries. A feast, a seven stage initiation, dining with the sun god and slaughter of a bull feature.

Strange in the current climate to watch the footage from the 1950’s excavation of the ruins after the bombing of London reduced the city to rubble and the Temple of Mithras was unearthed. Thousands flocked to see the archaeological site, queuing for hours to get a glimpse of the past.

I was fascinated by the lighting in this latest recreation of the Roman Cult Temple, creating ethereal walls of mist and dark smoky columns.

A visit to Greenwich

The observatory is closed at the moment but there are some beautiful astronomical treasures in the Queen’s House and the ghost of the tulip staircase to look out for.

A visit to Salisbury Cathedral

Splendid platonic solids, the world’s oldest mechanical clock and majestic cedar trees. The tomb from 1635 is of Thomas Gorges and Helena Snachenberg and the polyhedra possibly reference da Vinci’s drawings for Divina Proportione book on mathematics and a nod to sacred geometry.

Incredibly this spectacular structure is built on 4ft foundations and the ground water level must be checked regularly – hence the hole and stick.

Not only shaky foundations but adding the tallest spire in Britain caused the pillars to bow.

A visit to Kew Gardens

The proliferation of paintings in the purpose built Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens is an astonishing achievement by an amazing pioneer. Her love of botany was inspired by a visit to Kew gardens in her twenties but it wasn’t until after her Father’s death when she was forty that she began her mission to visit as many far away places as possible and paint the plants she found there. Between 1871 and 1885 Marianne travelled the world often alone capturing the scientific detail but also the beauty of the plants in their natural setting.

Zadok Ben-David Blackfield.

I remember seeing this impressive installation at Hales Gallery back in 2007, it was good to see it again and on a bigger scale. The acid etched and hand painted miniature plants are taken from 18th and 19th century botanical illustrations echoing the paintings of Marianne North in the gallery next door.

Wolfgang Buttress – The Hive is a permanent installation at Kew.

Bees communicate through vibrations. An accelerometer in a beehive at Kew senses vibrations from the activity of the bees and sends these in real-time to The Hive. One thousand LED lights respond to the vibrations along with a soundscape also triggered by signals from the real beehive. The sounds from a pre-recorded library were created when musicians improvised to a live feed of beehive sounds in the key of C, the key that bees buzz in.

Alignment at Gallery 46

Beautiful work from Mary Yacoob and Kevin Quigley exploring the mysteries of the universe that reside in the patterns and alignments of nature and human ritual.

Plus performance by Geo-metron ensemble specially commissioned for ALIGNMENT.
The Ensemble has developed work on ideas centred around Geometry, Cosmic Alignments, Earth Measurements.

From the press release:

Since 3000 BC, observers have been fascinated by the study, development and analysis of spatial relations in line, measurement, angle and shape. Through necessity, they developed techniques in the surveying and measurement of everyday phenomena.

The Greek Mathematician, EUCLID, who worked at the Library of Alexandria, described ‘10 Greek Axioms’ which he referred to as his ‘elements’. These ‘elements’ went on to form the empirical basis and foundation of science and reasoning. Euclid’s text, written in the 3rd century BC, was entitled ‘The Elements of Geometry’, or in Greek ‘Geo Metron’ (Earth Measurement). Euclid’s text continues to enlighten, and is studied today as geometry continues to sub-divide into new, advanced forms, delineating the universe around us. So important was the study of line and shape that Pythagoras and Plato often wrote ecstatically about ‘geometry’ as the key to the interpretation of the universe.  Thus, geometry gained an association with the sublime, to complement its earthy origins and its reputation as the exemplar of precise reasoning.

MARY YACOOB’S cyanotypes immerse viewers in the mysterious sensory-chromatic ambiance of star maps and the night sky. Lightboxes and colour-saturated drawings explore relations between geometry, spatial relations, and our perceptual experience. The evolution of visually complex and harmonious alignments suggest artistic creativity as a metaphor for the creativity inherent in all natural processes.

KEVIN QUIGLEY’S work is a series of drawings, mono-prints and relief printing in which he is drawing inspiration from the occult sciences of geomancy and talismanic making. Producing two sets of print works, Kevin Quigley sets out to explore the esoteric meaning of number, markmaking and alignment from ‘earth energies’ in the landscape to power sigils used throughout magic and religious traditions.

Splendid trip to Worthing to see Anne Krinsky‘s Shifting Shorelines installation on the sea front and exhibition Fugitive at Worthing Museum and Gallery followed by a passionate talk to a full house from marine ornithologist Lizzie Hibberd on the migrant bird visitors to the South Coast.

A paean to the fragile beauty of the South Coast wetlands under threat from pollution, bad land management and climate change.

The big excitement this month was to get the cosmic ray detector assembled and working. It may not look very exciting to see an LED flash but knowing it was caused by a tiny traveller from outer space I do find quite something to acknowledge.

The detector uses a small slab of plastic scintillator as a detection medium and a silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) for light collection from charged particles as they pass through the scintillator. Flashing the plastic block with light from a UV torch causes a big scintillation burst.

The signal from the photomultiplier is sent to an Arduino microprocessor which measures the amplitude of the signal. The small OLED screen updates every second and an LED flashes every time an event is registered.

I have the skills and patience of ABL Circuits to thank for soldering the tiny SMT components to the PCB boards and then working out which part had the fault and replacing it so that the correct voltage was supplied to the SiPM PCB. It needed to read approximately +29.5 V as anything over 30 might damage the SiPM so it was a big relief when this was achieved.

Once I had the printed circuit boards assembled I could wrap the scintillator plastic in foil, apply optical gel and attach it to the SiPM and then wrap this in electrical tape to make it light tight. I had a little bit of soldering left to do myself and then it could be slotted together.

When I had both detectors working independently I could set them up in coincidence mode to differentiate cosmic rays from background radiation particles.

The top detector is reading all local background radiation and the bottom one is just recording cosmic rays. The lights flash in unison when a particle travels through the top and bottom detector at the same time. The top detector labelled ‘M’ I will call mother and the bottom ‘S’ I will call son, (not the historical terminology suggested).

The horizontal lines record the energy of that particle – look out for the WOW particles!

So happy to have got this far with the project, now for the difficult bit translating that signal into an action triggering an interactive artwork.

Not only can cosmic rays be observed using a cloud chamber but they also trigger the formation of everyday clouds.

The Solar Wind is made up mainly of hydrogen and helium ions (ions are the nucleus of atoms separated from their accompanying electrons) known as solar protons. Travelling at up to 5 million miles per hour, the solar wind carries a million tons of matter from the sun into space every second. When massive amounts of energy stored in the magnetic fields of the sun are suddenly released in a solar flare explosion the particles are accelerated to even greater speeds.

Coronal mass ejections fire off great clouds of hot gas and the explosions are so powerful that they also rip away knots of magnetism from the surface of the sun which are sent sweeping past Earth deflecting the path of cosmic rays that would otherwise strike our planet. This effect is called the Forbush Decrease where increased solar activity results in a reduction of cosmic rays coming from outside our solar system.

Cosmic rays are super-charged subatomic particles produced by exploding stars, black holes and other phenomena many times more violent than any solar flare explosion but one coronal mass ejection can reduce cosmic rays for a few weeks and continued solar activity can keep cosmic ray counts low for sustained periods of time.

The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle where north and south poles switch places about every 11 years. It then takes another 11 years for the poles to flip back again. Sunspot activity caused by the magnetic field are affected by the solar cycle but it is hard to predict how active a cycle might be. Usually at the beginning of the cycle there are fewer sunspots causing eruptions which then increase over time reaching solar maximum in the middle of the solar cycle before gradually retuning to solar minimum before the cycle begins again. The first solar cycle to be recorded was in 1751 and we are currently in cycle 25 with peak activity expected in 2025.

Research at the Technical University of Denmark has shown that the number of comic rays reaching the Earth has a significant impact on the warming of the oceans. When solar explosions deflect the number of cosmic rays hitting our planet there is a shortage of small aerosols – the chemical specks in the air that grow until water vapour can condense on them to become the water droplets of low-level clouds. The aerosol robotic network AERONETT also noticed a slight change in the colour of sunlight during times of low cosmic ray activity and found that violet light from the Sun looked brighter than usual. They put this down to the shortage of small aerosols usually provided by the cosmic rays which scatter violet light as it passes through the air. Without the growing aerosols, low-altitude clouds begin disappearing about a week after a Forbush Decrease minimum of cosmic rays. The water remains in the atmosphere in vapour form, but unlike cloud droplets it does not get in the way of sunlight warming the ocean. During solar maximum events the decline in cosmic radiation and the loss of low cloud cover persists for long enough to warm the planet.

“The effect of the solar explosions on the Earth’s cloudiness is huge. A loss of clouds of 4 or 5 per cent may not sound very much, but it briefly increases the sunlight reaching the oceans by about 2 watt per square metre, and that’s equivalent to all the global warming during the 20th Century.” Henrik Svensmark DTU

I have been testing new configurations of magnets for a large etching/drawing work looking at magnetoreception.