Archives for posts with tag: breath of stars

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.