Archives for posts with tag: Belly of a rock

I am very grateful to a-n The Artists Information Co for awarding me a professional practice and creative development bursary to expand on my research and respond to the many ways Earth’s magnetic field impacts life on earth. The award will be used for a research trip to the remote location of Eskdalemuir Magnetic Observatory and Kielder Dark Skies Observatory. Fingers crossed for an Aurora experience. I will also gain expert tuition in concrete casting and mould making from Anna Hughes and make use of the facilities at The London Sculpture Workshop.

Domain of the Devil Valley Master – work in progress. It is likely that compasses were first used in China to divine an alignment of order and harmony for important sites and rituals. Jade hunters discovered they could also help to keep them from getting lost long before Europeans used them for navigation. The first mention of a south-pointer is in a fourth-century BCE text – The Book of the Devil Valley Master, and it is this that I am referencing in the title of this sculpture. Other references in the work are the rotation of the Earth’s core and geological formations of polygonal prisms. A magnetic domain is a region within a magnetic material in which the individual magnetic strength and orientation of the atoms are aligned with one another and they point in the same direction. The work uses directional magnetic steel stripped of its industrial coating to reveal the jigsaw pattern which comes from rolling single crystals of an iron silicon alloy into thin sheets to minimise magnetic losses for use in industry. The sheets have been sanded, etched, guillotined, treated for rust and sealed.

The Earth’s core is made almost entirely of iron and nickel. Siderophiles are elements that form alloys easily with iron and are concentrated in the Earth’s core. When the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago from the collision, accretion and compression of matter it was rock all the way through. Heat from the massive violence of formation and radioactive decay caused the planet to get hotter and hotter. After about 500 million years of heating up it finally reached the melting point of iron. As the iron liquified lighter material rose to the surface becoming the mantle and crust and the heavy metals like iron and nickel fell towards the centre becoming the core. The siderophiles that descended into the core are gold, platinum, and cobalt along with around 90% of the Earth’s sulphur. Hence the smelly sulphur vents around the volcanic regions.

Belly of a Rock – work in progress. Making paper clay discs to build the surface of this hybrid sculpture and crushing mussel and oyster shells to use as texture.

The geographic north pole lies in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, covered in shifting sea ice, where the sun rises and sets only once per year. All lines of longitude converge here and hence all time zones. It is known as true north to distinguish it from the magnetic north pole. However, as the Earth’s axis of rotation wobbles slightly in an irregular circle, even this pole is not fixed. The magnetic north pole, also called the magnetic dip pole, is where the planet’s magnetic field is vertical and a compass needle here would dip and try to point straight down. The north and south dip poles are not found directly opposite each other. These dip poles are located by experiment in the field but as they are found in the most remote and harsh regions of the planet they are not easy to track. Also they can move around over considerable distances during each day, tracing out oval shapes as they are acted upon by dynamic electrical current systems of the magnetosphere, which are in turn defined by the activity of the solar wind. There is an equivalent (but fictional) magnetic dipole at the centre of the Earth assigned from global modelling of the geomagnetic field. These geomagnetic poles are an approximation arrived at by reducing Earth’s complex and varied magnetic field to that of a simple bar magnet. The north dip pole lies in Northern Canada, the northern dipole is roughly off the northwest coast of Greenland.

The Absolute Hut – work in progress. This installation is a reimagining of the Absolute Hut at Hartland Magnetic Observatory where monitoring of the Earth’s magnetic field takes place. Topological contours of suminagashi marbling also echo fluid magnetic field lines. Testing scale and alignment in the gallery space. Collecting planks for the north facing wall. Prepping the round window. Suminagashi experiments on different Japanese papers. I want to consider the hut as a sensory hub.

Other exciting news is that APT Gallery have selected a proposal for an exhibition which will take place in March 2024. The exhibition will consider the lifeboat as a metaphor in relation to uncertain times, ecological and social change and shifting landscapes as viewed from the land and the sea. The artists in this group show share an interest in exploring precarity as a site of dynamic transition. I am so happy to be working with these wonderful artists – Rachael Allain, Caroline AreskogJones, Beverley Duckworth, Liz Elton, Kathleen Herbert, Kaori Homma, Anne Krinsky.          

In celebration of World Metrology Day, NPL opened Bushy House and gardens to the public. A chance to see and hear about ever more accurate ways of measuring the physical world. Bushy House was the residence of William, Duke of Clarence (William IV) and his mistress Dora Jordan from 1797, and was offered to the Royal Society by Queen Victoria in 1900 as a location to establish The National Physical Laboratory. The impressive apple tree is from an offcut of one from Newton’s home estate. The magnetic laboratory here is concerned with devising and standardising the instruments used by magnetic observatories such as the one at Hartland that I visited last summer. I saw the 1kg sphere of single crystal silicon, with the smoothest polished surface of any made object and notoriously hard to photograph. The application of a strong magnetic field during the crystal growth process reduces contaminants giving a purer silicon crystal. Developments in technology bring new units and definitions of measurements.

From early concepts of number, patterns in nature (symmetry, branching, spirals, cracks, spots, stripes, chaos, flows, meanders, waves, dunes, bubbles, foam, arrays, crystals, and tilings) magnitude, and form came mathematics, meaning subject of instruction. This has evolved into complex theory from an understanding of negative numbers to imaginary numbers which combined with real numbers have been found necessary to describe quantum mechanics.

The colour coding of Saturn’s rings according to particle size used radio occultation to determine the different regions. Radio signals were sent from the Cassini spacecraft during orbits which placed Earth and Cassini on opposite sides of Saturn’s rings. This remote sensing technique measures how the radio waves bend around the matter they encounter to assess the physical properties of a planetary atmosphere or ring system. The purple colour indicates regions where most particles are larger than 5 centimeters. Green and blue shades indicate regions where there are mostly particles smaller than 5 centimeters and 1 centimeter. The white band is the densest region where radio signals were blocked preventing accurate representation in this area. The radio observations showed that all rings appear to have a mix of particle size distribution right up to boulder sizes, with several many meters across.

Gallery Visits

It’s Coming From Inside at Bell House, Dulwich. Curated by Sarah Sparkes and Jane Millar. In their thinking about the Impressionist Berthe Morisot, and the exhibitions broader theme of ‘Windows and Thresholds’, the curators see the two different domestic spaces, and the liminal corridors between them, as places expressive of dialogues in both Morisot’s and their invited artists’ works: of confines, dreams of escape, of external inscrutability and internal passion. Exhibiting artists: Fran Burden | Ruth Calland | Helen Carr | Mikey Cuddihy | Janet Currier | Robert Dawson | Andrew Ekins | Liz Elton | Lisa Fielding-Smith | Deborah Gardner | Caroline Gregory | Birgitta Hosea | Mindy Lee | Wayne Lucas | Julia Maddison | Jane Millar | Darren O’Brien | Kim Pace | Sarah Sparkes | Geraldine Swayne

Georgina Sleap Now and here and there together at Cable Depot. A residency undertaken in collaboration with Neil Cheshire, Olive Hardy, Mercedes Melchor, Agnieszka Szczotka, Derek Horton, Farida Youssef and Niamh Riordan. A wonderful installation conjured from simple materials and experimental technology, both analogue and digital that blur the here and there of time and space. Sounds of everyday street noise live from the artist’s Cairo balcony are streamed into the gallery where suspended torches project still slide images onto the wall or inside elongated sculptural forms. A loom for weaving a plain coffin shaped carpet hangs like a hammock next to CCTV recordings of yogic performance while a camera obscura style intervention casts shadows, bringing the local outside in.

The Shape of Things by Clan, a collective of multidisciplinary artists – Caroline Penn, Liz Lowe, Ashley Goldman, Nicky O’Donnell at Gallery 3, a delightful Georgian property in Margate. The artists examine issues of loss, both personal and environmental, that are balanced by ideas of hope and regeneration. A nice use of recycled and sustainable materials including netting from fruit and cable ties.

Beatriz Milhazes at Turner Contemporary. Perfect for a summer’s day at the seaside. Exuberant.

Opening event for the new photography centre at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Interesting to hear about the process Noémie Goudal undertakes to create her ambitious illusionist photographic sculptures such as Giant Phoenix VI from the series ‘Post Atlantica’ which has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum for their photography collection, housed in a new dedicated gallery. This work was inspired by her interest in shifting landscapes, the movement of tectonic plates and how landmasses join and separate over millennia. There was also the chance to see her video Inhale Exhale along with behind the scenes footage of her technical team and the scale of the resources involved. Tarrah Krajnak has also had work acquired by the museum and read some of her poetry at the event. Her interests are also in discontinuity, severance and cataclysmic events but on a human scale. Being born from an act of violence she puts her own identity forward to explore power relationships.


I have really enjoyed the breadth of information delivered so beautifully by Hettie Judah in her book Lapidarium – The Secret Lives of Stones. The character described and stories told of each geological layer, formation, rock and gem brings to life a world often perceived as static, perpetual and dry. This book is a great resource and has been particularly appropriate for me in the run up to the exhibition A Stone Sky with Julie F. Hill as we explore the intimate connections between the rocky planet earth and space.

 “How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control.”  Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

At Hartland Magnetic Observatory and other magnetic observatories around the world solar activity is examined daily and forecasts are given if this is likely to have any geomagnetic effect on Earth. The main geomagnetic field is also constantly changing due to convection flows and waves in the Earth’s core. As this change cannot be predicted, uncertainty slowly increases over time.

Most of my work at the moment is towards the exhibition A Stone Sky, with Julie F. Hill at Thames-side Studios Gallery later in the year. Very excited to be working alongside Julie and to have space to be ambitious in scale.

The Absolute Hut installation, reimagining the magnetic observatory room, will be a combination of planning to build the structure and unpredictability through processes used for the surfaces. Measuring for the north facing wall to be built in sections for easier transportation. Testing scale and coverage of field contour shapes cut in copper with a plasma gun.

I am hoping the north wall structure can be made up soon and the boards attached. I will then keep it outside facing north until the exhibition in an attempt to grow some moss on its surface. I have only had some very small success so far growing moss, despite trying a new culture recipe and being very diligent misting every morning and evening.

The topological contours of suminagashi marbling, which also echo fluid magnetic field lines, have inspired me to experiment with this idea for The Absolute Hut roofing. I have bought a sumi ink stick in whiteish green, an ink grinding stone and some verdigris pigment from Cornelissen in preparation to try this idea out. In this process the magnetic field lines appear embedded into the fabric of the hut that monitors (senses) the emanations from the Earth’s core.

Through the north facing window of The Absolute Hut, The Azimuth Obelisk (Obelisk of sedimentary knowledge) will be viewed. The sculpture is formed by tearing, drilling and layering sheets of paper. As sedimentary rocks build over time, so the obelisk has a lot of time invested in its making and conceals the history of past events in the hidden layers of the recycled prints and drawings.

I am still working on etching the Directional Magnetic Steel pieces. It can be a frustrating process as some batches work well and some do not etch well at all but come out dull and patchy and I’m not sure why. My idea was to use these pieces to draw a line across the gallery floor signifying the westward drift of the magnetic field from geographical north but now I am thinking more about mapping out a spiral shape in shaped pieces to echo the rotation of the Earth’s molten core.

All information about the Earth’s core has come from studying seismic data, analysis of meteorites, lab experiments with temperature and pressure, and computer modelling. Seismometers convert vibrations due to seismic waves into electrical signals. The velocity and frequency of seismic waves changes with pressure, temperature, and rock composition. The discovery that Earth has a liquid layer beneath the crust and a solid inner core has come from detailed analysis of the different types of waves that pass through the body of the Earth. Looking at the composition of meteorites, fragments of asteroids, formed about the same time, and from about the same material, as Earth provides clues to what minerals the core might contain. Diamond anvil cells are instruments used to recreate the pressure existing deep inside the planet by squeezing materials between two diamonds surfaces. A combination of this data is used to in complex computer modelling programs resulting in detailed animations of the geodynamo, a process powered by the convection of heat in the outer core along with the rotation of the planet.

Also a few more layers of papier mâché have been applied to the sculpture that will house a screen with video for the work Belly of a Rock.

Other work in the research stage looks at the first use of a magnetic compass, the cardinal points of navigation and the compass predecessor the wind rose.

In classical antiquity, a time stretching from Homer to the early middle ages, geographic orientation usually referred to landmarks or astral phenomena to determine direction. Eos meaning dawn, and Hesperus, evening were named for sunrise and sunset with north (arctos) being marked by the constellation Ursa Major and later the Pole Star. The winds also became associated with direction, and named in accordance with their qualities such as hot and humid or cold and dry. In Greek mythology Astraeus, the god of dusk, and Eos, the goddess of dawn, gave birth to many sons of the twilight including the Anemoi, the four gods of the winds, each ascribed a cardinal direction. Boreas being the god of the cold north wind,  Notus the god of the hot south wind, Eurus from the east and gentle Zephyrus from the west.

The number of points on a wind rose began with the four cardinal points which were added to and refined over time. The winds were often given names that referred to a particular locality from where they seem to blow, so different places came up with various local names. Aristotle designed an asymmetrical 10 point wind rose which was later refigured by Timosthenes who is credited with inventing the system of twelve winds and using this more for navigation than for “the study of things high in the air.

Classical wind roses were eventually replaced by the modern compass rose during the middle ages.

The “Vatican table” is a marble Roman anemoscope dating from the 2nd or 3rd Century CE, held by the Vatican Museums. Usually an anemoscope would be topped with a weather vane. Divided into twelve equal sides, each one is inscribed with the names of the classical winds, both in Greek and in Latin. 

At a quantum scale, all matter is underpinned by uncertainty. My fascination with particle physics began from simply wondering what everything was made of when you looked really closely. I looked up ‘fundamental building blocks of the universe’ and was blown away by this mysterious other world, so far away in terms of scale I can comprehend, yet a part of me and everything I interact with.

Quanta is a discrete unit that cannot be divided. Quantum physics is the study of energy and matter at the most fundamental level. The chemical reactions in a birds eye that allow it to ‘see’ Earth’s magnetic field involves the quantum entanglement of radical pairs of electrons. These electrons are excited by light, particularly the blue of twilight.

Photography was the first available demonstration that light could indeed exert an action sufficient to cause changes in material bodies. William Henry Fox Talbot 

The subject of the photograph (the sun) has transcended the idea that a photograph is simple a representation of reality,  and has physically come through the lens and put it’s hand onto the final piece. Sunburn Chris McCaw

This month NASA announced a new planetary defence strategy to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) on 11th October 2022, changed the orbit of the Dimorphos Asteroid in the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.

This marks humanity’s first time purposely changing the motion of a celestial object.

“An asteroid impact with Earth has potential for catastrophic devastation, and it is also the only natural disaster humanity now has sufficient technology to completely prevent,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. First any potential collision objects must be identified. This will be the job of the Near Earth Object Surveyor, along with ground-based optical telescope capabilities, to find the still undiscovered population of asteroids and comets that could impact our planet.

A magnetometer is being sent on an eight year journey to Jupiter. It was launched this month from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) has magnetic and electric field sensors on the end of the magnetometer boom. The boom is folded in three parts and packed against the side of the spacecraft for launch. Once unfolded in space, the sensors will extend clear of the main body of the spacecraft, allowing very accurate measurements without magnetic interference from the spacecraft itself.

The boom’s instruments will measure Jupiter’s magnetic field, its interaction with the internal magnetic field of Ganymede, and will help study the subsurface oceans of the icy moons.

Ganymede is the only moon in the solar system known to have its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes auroras, which are ribbons of glowing, hot, electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, its magnetic field is embedded in, or lies within, Jupiter’s magnetic field.

The discovery of the moons orbiting Jupiter by Galileo Galilei in 1610 was the first time a moon was discovered orbiting a planet other than Earth. The discovery eventually led to the understanding that planets in our solar system orbit the Sun, instead of our solar system revolving around Earth.

Gallery Visits

Peter Doig at The Courtauld. My highlights were the luminous moons, moon bathing and an etching of a cave.

Jitish Kallat Whorled (Here After Here After Here) at Somerset House had a romantic premise with a prosaic aesthetic. I love the concept and the theory and it’s certainly a jarring juxtaposition to be directed to celestial destinations by motorway signage. Routes through the work map circular movements through space and time. Is this the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?

Mike Nelson Extinction Beckons at Hayward Gallery.

The impact is in the SCALE. Punchdrunk meets abandoned engineering.

Really pleased with the results I am getting from the new batch of directional magnetic steel sent from Union Steel Products. These are coming out better than in previous tests.

Norman P. Goss invented grain-orientated steel in 1934. It was produced through a two-stage cold rolling process with intermediate annealing between the cold rolling stages. Grain-oriented electrical steel enabled the development of highly efficient electrical machines, especially transformers. Today, the magnetic cores of all high-voltage high-power transformers are made of grain-oriented electrical steel. The strong preferred crystallographic orientation is known as a Goss texture.

When I receive the electrical steel it has a grey insulation coating which has been applied to both sides of the sheet to avoid eddy currents between the stacked sheets when used in a transformer core. I am removing this coating by sanding. I then etch the sheets in copper sulphate solution for 20 minutes. The plate must be dried very quickly when it is taken out of the etching bath. I then lightly polish and wax the surface. Some detail is lost quite quickly and areas can become muddy after etching so I still need to experiment a little more with alternative cleaning and sealing methods.

A previous batch had a different coating that proved impossible to remove cleanly even with the most extreme methods. This new batch has two different types of sheet which have a slightly different pattern to reveal. It is quite hard work but a fascinating material to experiment with.

I have been considering using the Directional Magnetic Steel Pieces in some form of suspended sculpture as movement causes the surface to catch the light revealing the patterned surface of this material. I might use it to mark the line of declination across the gallery floor from True North to Magnetic North at the time of installation.

Thinking about moving sculptures –

Imagine holding Einstein’s attention for the forty minutes it takes your work to revolve. A Universe by Alexander Calder 1934, painted iron pipe, steel wire, motor, and wood with string. One of the first artists to explore kinetic and motor driven sculpture, expanding drawing into 3D and painting into motion. A nice intro to Calder from 2016 – The Universe of Alexander Calder with Dara Ó Briain.

Work continues on the Azimuth Obelisk with the construction of the metal frame to support the structure and hold the layered paper sheets. Thanks to Giles Corby of the London Sculpture Workshop for getting to grips with my diagrams and welding the frame. The frame is made in three interlocking parts to distribute the weight and make for easier storage and transportation. This sculpture is a response to the concrete obelisk erected in 1955 at Hartland Magnetic Observatory, near the site’s northern boundary as a permanent azimuth mark. It is viewed via a theodolite through a window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth being 11º27’54” E of N and marks the point from which the magnetic north pole is tracked as it drifts westwards.

The British Bryological Society celebrates its centenary this year, promoting the study of mosses and liverworts. I have been searching their website for clues on growing moss. Most of the information is on the identification of mosses but I did find a useful downloadable pdf of The Moss Growers Handbook by Michael Fletcher. No mention of liquidising moss with yoghurt as a starter culture though.

Gathering moss, liquidising with yoghurt and painting on to reclaimed old boards.

I made a rough model of The Absolute Hut to work out how many boards I will need for the north facing wall to try and grow moss on. I like that it turned out looking like a bird house as inside will be video exploring the magnetoreception of birds. This work is a reimagining of the Absolute Hut at Hartland Magnetic Observatory where monitoring of the Earth’s magnetic field takes place.

Some speculation on human magnetoreception:

Neurons send information electrochemically around the body. The signals they send are called action potentials which is a temporary shift from negative to positive within the cell caused by certain ions entering the cell. Research has proven that some animals can sense the magnetic field via cryptochrome molecules in the retina which trigger action potentials. New studies have been carried out looking at iron particles (Fe3O4) found in the brain using supersensitive magnetic sensors to read the brain’s magnetic field. Receptor cells containing crystals of magnetite could register changes in magnetic fields and report this information to the brain.  

One study suggests that it could be possible for the magnetic field in one animal’s brain to transmit information to another animal’s brain by triggering action potentials creating the same thoughts and emotions. There have been experiments with rats and fruit bats which claim brain to brain communication has occurred. Alpha waves in the human brain have been shown to respond to magnetic fields. Alpha waves are always present, but are more prominent when at rest. The experiment, carried out at Caltech, mimicked how a person might experience the Earth’s magnetic field when turning their head. 

Maybe putting our heads together can exchange thoughts telepathically.

I have taken the contour lines from a publicly available World Magnetic Model Field Map as a framework for layering in the video work on bird magnetoreception.

An early frosty morning captured the sun melting the ice on the lens of the spy cam in the garden.

I have built the protective box frame for the monitor that will be inside the mollusc/rock sculpture Belly of a Rock. Thanks to Pete next door for cutting the wood for me. I plan to build the shape up with mesh covered in paper clay. I have had the idea to make small circular paper clay clumps with swirls of crushed shell on each one and build the form up from these. I have been given a lot of oyster shells and have collected mussel shells which I have tested crushing with a pestle and mortar.

The drift of the magnetic North pole was first recorded in 1831 and historically would wander between 0–15 km a year but since the 1990’s it has sped up to drift 50–60 km a year. Tracking changes in the magnetic field can tell researchers how the iron in Earth’s core moves.

Earth’s magnetic field is created in the swirling outer core. Magnetism in the outer core is about fifty times stronger than it is on the rocky surface of the Earth. At the centre of the Earth is the inner core which is divided into eastern and western hemispheres. In the inner core, the temperature is so high, materials lose their permanent magnetic properties as the atoms are so thermally excited they can no longer align to a magnetic point. This is known as the Curie temperature.

The hemispheres of the inner core have distinct crystalline structures and the western hemisphere seems to be crystallizing rapidly whereas the eastern hemisphere may actually be melting.  Geoscientists have also recently discovered that the inner core has an inner core. A radical geologic change about 500 million years ago may have caused this inner inner core to develop. Here the crystals are oriented east-west instead of north-south and are not aligned with either Earth’s rotational axis or magnetic field. The inner inner core crystals may have a completely different structure to the hexagonal close-packed (HCP) phase of iron that is stable only at extremely high pressure and so may exist at a different phase.

ESA’s three-satellite Swarm mission was launched in 2013 to monitor Earth’s magnetic field by measuring magnetic signals from Earth’s core, the crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere. Using data from the Swarm mission, scientists have discovered energy generated by electrically-charged particles in the solar wind, which can be disruptive to communication systems, flows asymmetrically into Earth’s atmosphere towards the magnetic north pole more than towards the magnetic south pole. They have also discovered a completely new type of magnetic wave that sweeps across the outermost part of Earth’s outer core every seven years. These magnetic waves are likely to be triggered by disturbances deep within the Earth’s fluid core. Research suggests that other such waves are likely to exist, probably with longer periods.

Geomagnetic jerks are sudden powerful waves that occur about every three to 12 years and are not consistent across the globe. It seems these jerks originate from rising blobs of molten matter that form in the planet’s core up to twenty five years before the related jerk takes place. The current findings from Swarm are part of a long-term project to predict the evolution of the geomagnetic field over the coming decades.

Polarised light is when the waves of electric and magnetic fields vibrate preferentially in certain directions. This can happen when light bounces off a reflective surface like a mirror or the sea. It can also happen in space as starlight travels through gas and dust clouds. Polarisation carries a wealth of information about what happened along a light ray’s path and astronomers can study the physical processes that caused the polarisation.

The Milky Way is filled with a mixture of gas and dust from which stars are born. Cosmic dust grains are almost always spinning rapidly, tens of millions of times per second, due to collisions with photons and rapidly moving atoms. The spinning dust grains become aligned to the direction of the magnetic field. They emit light at very long wavelengths from the infrared to the microwave domain which comes out vibrating parallel to the longest axis of the grain, making the light polarised.

Visualisation of data from ESA’s Planck satellite shows the interaction between interstellar dust in the Milky Way and the structure of our Galaxy’s magnetic field. Polarisation-sensitive detectors were able to capture the data as interstellar dust grains tend to align their longest axis at right angles to the direction of the magnetic field resulting in light emitted by clouds of gas and dust being partly ‘polarised’. Researchers are using the polarised light from interstellar dust to reconstruct the Galaxy’s magnetic field and study its role in galaxy evolution and star formation. From this data it can be seen that across the galactic plane there is a strong regular pattern but in some areas there are tangled features where the local magnetic field is particularly disorganised.

New images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope show star formation, gas, and dust in nearby galaxies with unprecedented resolution at infrared wavelengths. NGC 1433 is a barred spiral galaxy with a particularly bright core surrounded by double star forming rings. For the first time, in Webb’s infrared images, scientists can see cavernous bubbles of gas where forming stars have released energy into their surrounding environment.

The Observable Universe 2018 by Pablo Carlos Budasi. The furthest we can see is the faint glow from the cosmic microwave background emitted 13.8 billion years ago.

From Earth we become the centre of the eye that gazes out but we have no idea of the full size of the universe or if we are embedded in a multiverse.

The unobservable universe makes up the vast majority, around 95% of the universe. Zero, a symbol to mark nothing, sits on the boundary between absence and presence indicating what might have been or might come to be. Where we thought there was nothing we have found so much.

Gallery Visits

Preconscious Landscape at Exposed Arts Projects – an interesting space for arts based research projects. Artists: Lynne Abrahamson, Gabriele Beveridge, Matilde Cerruti Quara, Konstantinos Giotis, Sotiris Gonis, Ramona Güntert, Raksha Patel, Hamish Pearch, Anna Perach, Chantal Powell, Candida Powell-Williams, Paloma Proudfoot, Aziza Shadenova, Holly Stevenson, Maro Theodorou, Adia Wahid & Meng Zhou all grapple with an unresolvable psychoanalytic question: what does it mean for the conscious mind to try to understand its own preconsciousness?

Richard Mosse Broken Spectre at 180 The Strand. Seventy minutes of emotionally uncomfortable yet beautifully riveting viewing. Endless overwhelming destruction. Burnt forest. Subterranean fires. Intensive cattle farming. Aggressive gold mining. Wide wide screen images that slip between dreamlike garish colour and chilling monochrome with a soundtrack that sounds like the forest itself crying. The brutal disrespect for the land, the non-human and the people of the Amazon rainforest captured in heartbreaking detail as it slips through our fingers. Having been looking at moss recently the large photographic works at the entrance to the film come across very moss like and emphasises the micro and macro nature of the world.

Cable Depot presents Insert Coin, a project by Bob Bicknell-Knight exploring predatory monetisation practices within video games, specifically loot boxes, and the ongoing insertion of gambling mechanics into virtual experiences. Tapping into our desires and the addictive thrill of winning Bob Bicknell-Knight invites us across the digital divide into a luminous world of pixels and 3D printing. I was delighted to win an island. Here everything is free so there is no uncertainty and debt to mar the experience.

As our physical lives are becoming increasingly gamified the game industry has, for almost twenty years, been inserting ways of gambling real world money into video games. From purchasing extra lives to play another level in Candy Crush to buying new cosmetic options for your guns in Call of Duty, spending money within video games has become increasingly prevalent.

One of the most prevalent and destructive forms of monetization are loot boxes, consumable virtual items that are bought within video games which can be redeemed to receive a randomised selection of further virtual items, ranging from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character to game-changing equipment such as weapons and armour. As the items are randomised players have previously spent thousands of pounds attempting to gain specific products in different games. As these gambling mechanics have become more prevalent, with considerable harm being done to young people and players with gambling addictions, loot boxes are now illegal in several countries, whereas recently the UK government decided that loot boxes will not be regulated under betting laws.

Champs Noir curated by Simon Leahy-Clark at Terrace Gallery. A carefully chosen collection of works in black from a great catalogue of artists. Featuring: Michael Ashcroft, Bensley and Dipre, Diane Bielik, Andy Black, Cedric Christie, Gemma Cosse, Graham Crowley, A Ee, Nicky Hodge, Mandy Hudson, Michael Kaul, Sarah Ken, Sharon Leahy-Clark, Simon Leahy-Clark, Graham Lister, Brendan Lyons, Alistair MacKillop, Mutalib Man, Enzo Marr, Donna Mclean, Neil Metzner, Jane Millar, Josh Mitchell, Jost Munster, Stephen Palmer, Kasper Pincis, Andrew Seto, Peter Suchi, Sally Taylor, Chris Tosic, Mark Wainwright & Tom Wilmott. Selected image: Jane Millar: Test Bed, ceramic media, 12cm diameter, 2019.

Julie F Hill Earth, Water, Night at The Stone Space

We so often look out at the night sky forgetting it is gazing back at us.

‘… The [pool] is the very eye of the landscape, the reflection in water the first view that the universe has of itself …’ —Gaston Bachelard,

Holding the poetic and alchemical in contrast to the objective and scientific, astronomical data of deep space folds into Earth’s deep time. Light and shadow gather in pools of water, forming images that suggest consciousness is a fundamental property of all matter.

Beautiful and contemplative works capturing the milkyness of the Milky Way caught in the folds of the night sky; distorted reflections rippling across dark pools; illusory depths oscillating between dimensions.

Sam Williams Deep in The Eye and The Belly (Part One) at San Mei Gallery. It was a busy night at the opening and I didn’t take any photos. There was a large projection on one wall and two other films showing on monitors with headphones. The work describes stories of cetacean bodies, interlacing actual historical events with speculative narratives. The camp narration of the main film deliberately jars with the emotive subject matter, but is given context through the supporting films as the protagonist who features across each film is seen reclining wearing feathers and glittery regalia speaking in long drawn and world weary sentences or lamenting the loss of the whale in absurd song from the vantage of a lighthouse.

Reverse Parking at Thames-side Gallery curated by Peter Lamb and Katie Pratt.

Reverse Parking presents seven artists (Gordon Cheung, Will Cruickshank, Cristallina Fischetti, Oona Grimes, Paul Hosking, Peter Lamb and Katie Pratt) whose work explores the duality of reality and the technological sublime. A bold and vibrant show. Good to see some large work from Oona Grimes and to chat with her in the gallery; her battle scenes encompassing battles down the ages coincidentally emerged at the onset of war in Ukraine. Also interesting to hear Katy Pratt discuss her language of abstract painting on the excellent Art Fictions podcast.

…not necessarily in the right order at Stephen Lawrence Gallery takes a playful cue from the Morecambe and Wise sketch with special guest Andre Previn which is embedded in British cultural history. Work from the featured artists (Carol Wyss, Dominic Murcott, Graeme Miller, Dirty Electronics and Dushume) overlaps and layers through still image, sound and projection. Exhibited is the third iteration of Carol Wyss’s giant etchings that expose the inner recesses of the human skull. Here they are made luminous and their sculpted landscapes all the more surreal by the animated light sequences traversing their surfaces.


Not observant enough to realise I bought the pocket guide version of The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley I ended up with an unembellished rather prosaic read with lots of facts and charts and possibly useful information that requires a large investment of dedication to the cause to learn many of these techniques. What was amusing though was finding the section headed Mosses and Lichens opens with the paragraph –

‘There is a commonly held belief that “Moss grows on the north side of trees and buildings.” It does, sometimes, but will also grow on every other side.

He goes on to say that moss doesn’t care about direction, but it does care about moisture. So in the northern hemisphere the side away from the sun is preferred by moss as it retains moisture for longer. Gradient is also important to prevent run off of water. I have tried to prop my planks at as low an angle as possible in the side passage but may need to find somewhere I can lie them down more.

I am enjoying dipping in to Florian Freistetter’s A History of the Universe in 100 Stars. No longer a swathe of uniform twinkling points of light but each star has its own character and story. It starts with 100 stories but we can extrapolate that to consider each of the many billion stars as individuals.


In Our Time – Superconductivity Excellent guest speakers (Nigel Hussey, Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Bristol; Suchitra Sebastian, Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge; Stephen Blundell, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford) on this podcast. Superconductivity was a surprising discovery in 1911 by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes who found that when he lowered the temperature of mercury close to absolute zero and ran an electrical current through it, there was no resistance to the current. Many other materials have also been found to share this property when cooled to a pivotal temperature when the material suddenly enters a different phase and behaves in a completely different way. As water moves from solid to liquid to gas at different temperatures so metals can move between solid, liquid and superconductor. Further research found that a superconductor also expels magnetic fields and this has been exploited in the making of MRI scanners and to speed particles through the Large Hadron Collider.

I also enjoyed hearing how, what were once impossible numbers, called imaginary numbers by Descartes, have turned out to be fundamental and integral to explaining oscillations and the sort of wave like structures in the universe that we encounter when diving into a quantum world.

The Curious cases of Rutherford and Fry – The impossible number

Editing footage for the video Belly of a Rock which will be shown on an old monitor encased in a sculptural hybrid form relating to both mollusc and rock. The giant sea slug of the mollusc family, can derive directional cues from the magnetic field of the earth which is then modified in response to the lunar cycle. It orients its body between north and east prior to a full moon. In the slug’s nervous system, four particular neurons are stimulated by changes in the applied magnetic field, and two are inhibited by such changes suggesting that the animal uses its magnetic sense continuously to help it travel in a straight line.

The Earth can be divided into the inner core, the outer core, the mantle, and the thin crust. The outer core is about 1,367 miles thick and mostly composed of liquid iron and nickel. It is very malleable and in a state of violent convection. The churning liquid metal of the outer core creates and sustains Earth’s magnetic field. At the boundary between the inner and outer core temperatures can reach 6,000° C which is as hot as the surface of the sun. The inner core is a dense ball of mostly iron, but with a temperature above the melting point of iron, it is not liquid or even molten. Intense pressure from the rest of the planet and its atmosphere prevents the iron inner core from melting as the iron atoms are unable to move into a liquid state. It could be described as a plasma behaving as a solid. The inner core rotates eastward, like the surface of the planet, but it’s a little faster, making an extra rotation about every 1,000 years.  Geoscientists think that the iron crystals in the inner core align north-south, along with Earth’s axis of rotation and magnetic field and are arranged in a hexagonal close-packed pattern. The orientation of the crystal structure means that seismic waves travel faster when going north-south than when going east-west. Seismic waves travel four seconds faster pole-to-pole than through the Equator. 

The Earth is still cooling and as it does so, bits of the liquid outer core solidify or crystallize causing the solid inner core to grow by about a millimetre every year. The growth is not uniform, it is influenced by activity in the mantle and is more concentrated around regions where tectonic plates are slipping from the lithosphere into the mantle, drawing heat from the core and cooling the surrounding area. The crystallization process is very slow, and further slowed by the constant radioactive decay of Earth’s interior. Scientists estimate it would take about 91 billion years for the core to completely solidify but the sun will burn out in just 5 billion years. 

I have nervously passed the cosmic ray detectors over to programmer Jamie. It was hard to let them out of my sight after so much work to get them built but he can’t test the code he has written without them. The Breath of Stars directly interacts with cosmic rays in real time to trigger a digital reaction via a mini computer attached to a block of plastic scintillator and a sensitive photomultiplier. As each particle strikes the plastic scintillator its energy is recorded and a starburst image video relative to the energy released is projected, with the largest images representing the particles with the highest energy.

I am constructing an Obelisk sculpture in response to the concrete obelisk erected in 1955 at Hartland Magnetic Observatory, near the site’s northern boundary as a permanent azimuth mark. It is viewed via a theodolite through a window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth being 11º27’54” E of N and marks the point from which the magnetic north pole is tracked as it drifts westwards. Layers of torn recycled paper are stacked like sedimentary rock that holds clues to the Earth’s magnetic field reversals in its strata.

Copper contours of magnetic field lines have been lacquered to preserve the heat patina from plasma gun cutting. These shapes will be pinned to the north facing mossy wall of the Absolute Hut installation, a reimagining of the Absolute Hut at Hartland Magnetic Observatory. I will also employ a north facing window from which to observe the azimuth mark of the Obelisk sculpture.

A second research visit to RSPB Snettisham, this time to see the pink footed geese (which over winter on the mudflats here) leave their roost at dawn to fly to the fields to feed.

The walk from the car park to the viewing area is over 2km and takes about half an hour to walk. Setting out before first light the weather felt promising but just as I erected the camera tripod the rain came down hard and didn’t stop for the rest of the morning.

Made a second attempt the next morning leaving a little earlier and although it remained dry there was heavy fog over the sea. Not great for filming with my very basic kit but very atmospheric to experience as the geese emerged from the sea mists.

The noise they make is incredible, a constant chattering building to a crescendo of honking calls as they rise from the water and swarm across the sky in their hundreds. They come in waves but look like particles. At one point what sounded like a few gunshots fired out across the bay in the distant darkness. This sudden disturbance set off a slow deep rumble which drew closer accompanied by a low dark cloud growing heavily stronger building and rising as a huge tidal wave of geese rose simultaneously into the sky in panicked disarray. Extraordinary to witness.

Birds are able to “see” Earth’s magnetic field lines and use that information for navigation. Their compass ability comes from a quantum effect in radical pairs, formed photochemically in the eyes. This light sensitive magnetic compass used by birds is affected by the polarisation direction of light. Exposure to blue light excites an electron, which causes the formation of a radical-pair whose electrons are quantum entangled, enabling the precision needed for magnetoreception.

In chemistry a radical is an unpaired electron which is can be highly chemically reactive. In the radical pair mechanism a pair of electrons with opposite spins have a chemical bond. Light can cause the electrons to change spin direction which can break the bond giving the electron a chance to react with other molecules. In magnetoreception two cryptochrome molecules, found in the rod cells in the eyes of birds, each with unpaired electrons, exist in states either with their spin axes in the same direction, or in opposite directions, oscillating rapidly between the two states. That oscillation is extremely sensitive and can detect the weak magnetic field of the Earth. Birds then move their heads to read the spin of the molecules and therefore detect the orientation of the magnetic field.

While in North Norfolk staying in a beach chalet away from light pollution I was able to make a couple of short time lapse videos centering on Polaris.

Birds can detect the slow arc of the sun and the rotation of the constellations across the sky which is imperceptible to humans and allows migrating birds to orient themselves using celestial navigation as well as magnetoreception.

Birds are also able to detect rapid movement such as individual flashes or flickering of a fluorescent light which humans see as a continuous light. Hawks which pursue other birds through dense forests at high speeds, follow the movement of their prey while avoiding branches and other obstacles. To humans travelling at this speed, the fleeing prey, branches and obstacles would just be a blur.

Gallery Visit

Thames-side Gallery ‘The Accurate Perception Available When Our Eye Becomes Single’ is an immersive multi-screen installation evoking the emotional specifics of place (Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast) while exploring the elasticity of time and history. It is an audio-visual collaboration between Richard Ducker (video) and Ian Thompson (sound) with no linear narrative; sound and image are not synchronised, so each viewing is a unique experience. Sarah Sparkes also makes an enigmatic performative appearance both in the video and live in the gallery.

The crashing sea on shingle, open spaces and brutalist bunker architecture of Orford Ness are echoed in the gallery with audio pitched to envelop and resonate but not overwhelm. Nicely done.


I really enjoy the Inside Science podcasts with Gaia Vince and this one interviewing cosmologist and theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton about finding evidence that supports her multiverse theory was particularly fascinating.

Multiverses, melting glaciers and what you can tell from the noise of someone peeing

According to Laura the single universe theory is mathematically impossible.


Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life. A remarkable reveal of an other world, so different yet so entwined with our own. Beautifully clear analogies help to bridge an understanding between human and fungi.

The ability to detect and respond to chemicals is a primordial sensory ability.

In humans when a molecule lands on our olfactory epithelium and binds to a receptor it causes nerves to fire triggering thoughts and emotional responses.

A mycelial network is one large chemically sensitive membrane: a molecule can bind to a receptor anywhere on its surface and trigger a signalling cascade that alters fungal behaviour.

Fungal lives are lived in a flood of sensory information.

They have light receptors, are sensitive to touch and it also looks like fungi may form fantastically complex networks of electrically excitable cells – a potential ‘fungal computer’ using electrical signalling as a basis for rapid communication and decision making which could learn and remember.

Delighted to announce At a Distance has been selected for The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity exhibition at the Island Venue, Bridewell St, Bristol.

The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity is 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). Motivated by the International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference IMPACT 12’s theme ‘Merging and Metamorphosis’, the exhibition aims to trace the metamorphosis of conversations between disciplines. Installed at a former police station in Bristol, the Island Venue hosts art works in an outdoor courtyard, police cells and subterranean motor vehicle storage area.  The hybrid exhibition includes works of differing materials, scale and dimensions across installation, sculpture, sound, moving image, digital and post-digital media.  Curated by Sarah Strachan and Ayeshah Zolghadr.

At a Distance looks at remote methods of communication and relates this to the mysterious twinning of electrons in quantum entanglement where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast expanses. Einstein famously called this phenomenon ‘spooky action at a distance’. Filmed in Cornwall on 29th March 2019 (the first date when Brexit was supposed to happen) as the iconic Lizard Lighthouse powers up its lamp, solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean in the hope the message will be echoed back. Drawing on the physical language of print that embodies touch, separation and mirroring the flags 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.

In the studio I have been performing some more test etchings of the directional magnetic steel samples. Copper sulphate seems to give a better result than Nitric Acid. I have managed to gently polish the surface with Brasso without losing the crystal pattern and I gave it a coat of clear lacquer as it seems to rust easily. I am enjoying the excavation process.

The pattern comes from rolling single crystals of an iron silicon alloy into thin sheets to minimise magnetic losses for use in transformers.

There is a link here to quite a cool video showing magnetic wall domain movement with a magneto-optical sensor.

Back in the belly of a rock video editing the footage of iron filings movement over rock like surfaces.

Magnetic field reversals are stored in ancient volcanic and sedimentary rocks. The North and South Pole flip at irregular intervals but average about every 300,000 years. The last one was around 780,000 years ago. During a magnetic field reversal, which can take thousands of years, the magnetic field becomes twisted and tangled, and magnetic poles may appear in unexpected places.

Today the Earth is divided into the super hot inner core, the molten outer core, the mantle, and the thin crust.

When the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago from the collision, accretion and compression of matter it was rock all the way through. Heat from the massive violence of formation and radioactive decay caused the planet to get hotter and hotter. After about 500 million years of heating up it finally reached the melting point of iron. Known as the iron catastrophe this liquifying caused planetary differentiation to occur as lighter material rose to the surface becoming the mantle and crust whereas the heavy metals like iron and nickel fell towards the centre becoming the core. This molten mass also contains elements that dissolve in iron such as gold, platinum, and cobalt along with around 90% of the Earth’s sulphur.

Earth’s main geomagnetic field is constantly changing due to convection flows and waves in the Earth’s core. As this change cannot entirely be predicted, uncertainty slowly increases over time. This fluctuation is monitored using The World Magnetic Model jointly developed by the National Centres for Environmental Information and the British Geological Survey. This is the standard model used by the U.S. and U.K. governments and international organizations for navigation, attitude and heading referencing systems using the geomagnetic field.

Took an early morning drive out to Wilder’s Folly. Built in 1769 by Reverend Henry Wilder as a love token for his fiancée Joan Thoyts – it could be seen from both their residencies. First drone flight over a building and over trees. White doves are now resident and thankfully didn’t seem bothered by the drone.

Such a brilliant day meeting and trying to photograph the beautiful birds of prey at Coda Falconry under the expert guidance of Elliot. Lots of advice on hand just need faster reflexes and possibly a mirrorless camera.

Birds appear to be able to “see” Earth’s magnetic field lines and use that information for navigation. Their compass ability comes from a quantum effect in radical pairs, formed photochemically in the eyes.

Gallery Visits

The extraordinary Joe Banks Disinformation The Rapture Live optokinetic video and sound installation at Cable Depot. A special experience to witness this work which has a heady mix of spirituality and mortality. The human voice stretched to primordial sounds as the flesh transcends its halo of fire.

Wellcome Collection Rooted Beings

A look at the symbiotic relationship between plants, fungi and humans. The exhibition takes on the entanglement of colonial violence, indigenous knowledge and wildness. How different the world would be if we were also autotrophic. Patricia Domínguez holographic sculptures were fascinating – these are four blades of programmable LED lights spinning at speed to create an image. It was very effective. I was also intrigued by the material construction of the Vegetal Matrix exhibition stands which did look a bit like volcanic stone in the low light though they were listed as MDF with acrylic, so a sort of textured paint.

Wellcome Collection Being Human

Yinka Shonibare’s Refugee Astronaut“The refugee astronaut is the reverse of the colonial instinct of the astronaut – someone who is going out to conquer the world. What you have here is a nomadic astronaut just trying to find somewhere that’s still habitable.” 

Wellcome Collection In the Air

The exhibition explores the relationship between the air and earth, from 3.5-billion-year-old fossilised bacteria that first introduced oxygen into the atmosphere to delicate porcelain sculptures of the glaciers that provide a record of the air and our impact on it. 

Stromatolites 350m years old – these are fossilised microbial reefs formed in shallow waters from blue-green algae. These cyanobacteria were some of the earliest life forms and their photosynthesis helped produce the oxygen to support the development of other life forms.

International Airspace David Rickard 2019

This work marks the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the Paris Convention which extended land rights upwards to create international airspaces. The vessel contains air collected from the 27 participating countries alongside photographs of where the air was captured.

Panoramic film installation Air Morphologies investigates the materiality and composition of air pollution particles, their causes, effects and morphological agency. The project addresses how art and aesthetics interact with toxic materials; what kind of stories might be deployed through digital technologies; and how geopolitics are located in atmospheric thinking and being. Air Morphologies was initiated during Matterlurgy’s residency on the Science Technology Society program at Delfina Foundation, London funded by Gaia Art Foundation.

Rachael Allain introduced me to the work of Perla Krauze at Cadogan Contemporary. Earthy work presented simply allowing the natural materials to resonate with their own history and materiality. Real volcanic rock rather than a simulation.

“Using graphite frottages from stones and pavements and engraved volcanic rocks from El Pedregal, her paintings are abstract topographies and mappings. Stone is a fundamental material in her practice; linked to memory and durability, it can also be transformed and eroded. The crosshatch patterns in her paintings derive from the lines made in stone cutting, emphasising the transformation of stone from raw material to art object. Described as ‘grayscale tone poems’, Krauze alters and arranges stones to make miniature landscapes, complete in themselves but still referencing their origins.”

Future shock reimagining our near future at 180 The Strand. An immersive dive into a fairground world of light and motion, entertaining with one or two that stood out beyond technical prowess.

My favourite has its roots in the fashion world. Ib Kamara’s stylish film The Queen is Coming, a collaboration with Abdel El Tayeb grabs attention with its sense of transfixing unease created by the film’s characters via their direct expressions and heightened breathing. Anxiety levels are high. Fantastic.

In Neo Surf a collaborative project between filmmaker Romain Gavras and music producer Surkin the sheer scale of the marble quarry landscape emphasised by lanky teens dancing on the cut blocks is extraordinary and brings home a kind of wild abandonment.

Vigil is an installation collaboration between Ruben Spini and musician Caterina Barbieri. A sunset projected onto suspended melting ice creates a fragmented mirror image across the floor while videos with slow-motion footage of levitating bodies, transcendent synths and haunting vocals add to the sense of a slow death drugged on beauty.

Vortex puffs out a smoke ring every so often which is quite fun. Created by Pablo Barquin and Anna Diaz.

Row by Tundra uses the same holographic projectors as I recently saw used by Patricia Domínguez in Rooted Beings. Here they are interpreting generative data from the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.

Other work at Future Shock includes Weirdcore’s lucid dreaming colourscape Subconscious, Lawrence Lek’s self-driving car animation Theta, Actual Objects mildly interactive installation Vicky, NonoTak’s Daydream V6, Ibby Njoya’s colour box experience named after his influential father Mustafa, Vanishing Point from UVA, Object Blue and Natalia Podgorska’s installation of a future where astrologically predicted personality traits are true in What Melissa Said, Ryoichi Kurokawa and the shifting planes of light Topologies by UVA,

In The Black Fantastic at the Hayward Gallery. New narratives of Black possibility embracing the fantastical not as escapism but as bursting from the constraints of a restrictive society.

The Soundsuits of Nick Cave made as a response to racist violence confer anonymity along with a shamanic power. What a great use of the lace doily. Inspiration for the many doilies I have inherited from my Mum.

Wangechi Mutu collages, Sentinel sculptures and film The End of Eating Everything (featuring Santigold) are drawn from folklore steeped in the grotesque and spectacular. Time to turn from gluttony to restoration.

Lina Iris Viktor sumptuous paintings and Diviner sculptures heavy with gold acting as a conduit between heaven and earth inspired by ancient Egyptian funerary traditions. Her dramatic use of rich glossy black signifies the ‘materia prima’ – from which all creation was formed. Fabulous to see The Watcher, The Listener, The Orator sculptures are hewn from volcanic rock. Black gold of the sun.

Hew Locke’s The Ambassadors, a procession in search of future lands carrying their precious history with them echoing down the ages to Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting of the same name made in times when colonial foundations were being laid.

Cauleen Smith created an intriguing installation Epistrophy which refers to a phrase in literature or music repeated for emphasis. Her archive of associations are elevated into cinematic stardom by a series of live feed CCTV cameras which relay the objects onto the big screens becoming larger than life.

Other vibrant works include those of Rashaad Newsome, Tabita Rezaire and Chris Offili.

Directed to The Swimmers Limb by an attendant who said rather harshly ‘there’s not much to see’ I visited Gallery 31 dedicated to the Somerset House Studio artists where Mani Kambo has designed a ‘psychedelic’ wallpaper on which hang prints by Tai Shani from her feminist mythology series. Pattern, symbols and ritual. Plenty to see.

Carol Wyss The Mind Has Mountains at The Swiss Church. Having seen this powerful work at Ruskin’s House on Coniston Water last year in a very different space – very like the inside of a skull, it was rewarding to be able to see it in a larger space with a little distance which brought alive the mountainscapes within us. A film of the very physical etching, printing and installation process made by Peter Bromley entitled  Carol Wyss – In Situ was screened to an amazed captivated audience.