Archives for posts with tag: Chantal Powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capturing garden activity through the solar cycle with a spycam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing ‘The Forms’ as a floor piece.

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

Thanks to KIPAC Stanford University for the data visualisations.

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

Out of Studio

Reflections at Workplace Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seth Price – Art Is Not Human at Sadie Coles

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

Melanie Manchot Alpine Diskomiks at Parafin.

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

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

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

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

Larry Bell at Hauser and Wirth

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

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

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

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

Marcus Cope Silver Linings at Peer

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

Beautiful and terrible.

Alice Bucknell Swamp City at Hoxton 253 Project Space

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

Charlotte Johannesson Circuit at Hollybush Gardens.

“Nature speaks in symbols and signs.”

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

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

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

92 Light Years is finally up on the wall in my studio. This work was inspired by a visit to the UCL Observatory at Mill Hill with Lumen Studios just before the pandemic. It then became a more poignant and personal piece for me thinking about time spent here on Earth and trying to relate that to the vastness of the cosmos.

The electromagnetic waves of radio and television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. HD 70642 is a star similar to our sun with a large companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit here in our solar system.  This means it is possible there maybe Earth-type planets orbiting further in.

This star is in the constellation of Puppis about 90 light years away. Early signals from Earth will just be reaching this distant solar system with a potential Earth like planet. The time it has taken the signals to reach this home from home is roughly the same as my Mother’s lifetime on Earth. 92 years measured in light.

Early TV signals were transmitted in a series of 30 lines to complete one image called a raster pattern. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, similar to how one’s gaze travels when reading lines of text. The signal is sent in fragments and must be interpreted on arrival to make sense of the message. The folded sections in this work emulate the raster pattern and are made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print using images from the 1930’s and chinagraph pencil marking out the star chart – a bit like a lenticular image – you see the stars from one side and the fragmented signal from the other.

I have inherited a large number of lace and crocheted doilies from my Mother. A strange constellation may emerge.

In the studio I am continuing experimenting with magnets and iron filings while thinking about magnetoreception, methods of navigation and finding the way in the dark.

I have made a new etching of my iris which has been worked into with chinagraph pencil and will be used as background to film the movement of magnetised iron filings marching across the print. I am planning a moving image piece exploring magnetoreception along with a large mounted softground etching and a smaller photopolymer etching. I have tried some larger sized filings on the print which are darker but am not sure they are successful.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute investigating light-sensitive molecules that bacteria, plants and animals use to detect the Earth’s magnetic field have noted that in birds this molecule, located in the eyes, only reacts to the magnetic field if it is simultaneously stimulated by light. The researchers think that some mammals may also use this cryptochrome to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field as there is a correspondence between the blue cones in mammals and the blue to ultra violet sensitive cones in birds. It is therefore entirely possible that this cryptochrome molecule in mammals could also perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and be used for navigation and orientation.

I participated in an online residency @t.ransienttt via Instagram to share some of my work over the course of one week. TRANSIENT supports creatives who explore the relationship between Art & Technology and offers an accessible platform to showcase their work, as well as connecting with fellow, like-minded creatives from all over the world. 

My interests are broadly to do with visualising the unseen. Technology can assist in making something visible which is otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. I use the pioneering technology developed in the study of particle physics as part of my practice allowing us a glimpse into the world of subatomic particles.

Cosmic Chiasmus – This video gives a glimpse into the activity of subatomic particles fired into our world when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. Particles created during super nova explosions or by phenomena we are yet to discover, travel from distant galaxies continuously passing through us. Some particles collide and silently interact with atoms and technology on Earth.

A cloud chamber enables us to see the trails made by cosmic particles as they collide with and pass through our world. It has been said that the cloud chamber might be the most important piece of experimental equipment in the history of particle physics.

Scales of Intangibility and soft borders were developed in a black velvet chamber built during a studio residency at Chisenhale Art Place.

Scales of Intangibility is an interactive life size cloud chamber installation. Visitors were invited to enter the chamber to ‘capture’ projections of cosmic particle trails onto hand held viewing screens.

The concept of a finite but borderless universe and the permeability of our own body is explored in the video soft borders. The work addresses cosmic and quantum phenomena that are beyond human scale and relate them back to the body’s sensory experience. I worked with dance artist Paola Napolitano who performed sequences of movements based on the geometries of the platonic solids as video of cosmic particle trails were projected onto her body. The movements relate to the system devised by choreographer Rudolf Laban who believed – 

‘What we cannot perceive with our senses, especially our fundamental sense of touch, remains unreal and its very existence is denied’

Theoretically it is possible that wormholes exist. Aóratos (which translates as Unseen) was a site specific participatory installation with fire and film presented at Allenheads Blacksmith’s Shop as part of the 2019 ACA project Continuum.

Visitors were invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power the ‘wormhole’. They were provided with special paper tokens to write on filled with chemicals that change colour when they burn. They could then pass through a portal to see a video installation showing alternative landscape perspectives and would exit via a different door having made a short journey, leaving feeling cleansed of negative thought. Imagery for the videos took reference from theories of cosmic strings, space foam and the idea of a web of tiny wormholes connecting all points in space. The processes used included putting an endoscope down rabbit holes, using a microscope over foam, fibres and skin, green screen filming magnetic fields, along with footage from a high altitude balloon flight.

Wormholes symbolise crossing improbable boundaries.

There are some cosmic particles which arrive on Earth with such high energies that it could be they come from other dimensions.

At a Distance was filmed at Lizard Point Lighthouse on 29th March 2019 – the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU. Solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean hoping the message will be echoed back as in quantum entanglement theory where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. This mysterious twinning of electrons is what Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance’. The video also uses manipulated footage of Lizard Point Lighthouse lamp powering up for the night to employ another form of messaging over distance. The film is back projected onto a Fresnel lens, the type found in lighthouses to increase luminosity of the lamps beam.

I watched another excellent Laurie Anderson talk in the series Spending The War Without You, this one was titled Birds. All the talks have now been released on YouTube.

Out of the studio

LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art at 180 The Stand.

Subterranean adventures with wow factor. Light as medium and not always light in content as these spectacles can sometimes feel to be.

Hito Steyerl This is the Future is a video installation where a woman prisoner searches for a garden she has has to hide in the future to protect it from discovery by the prison guards. It also features Power Plants which are digitally generated by neural network computer systems based on the human brain and designed to predict the next frame in the video (the future) and are inspired by ruderal species, plants that grow out of waste ground or disruption.

Es Devlin BLUESKYWHITE is an installation beginning with a walk through long red tunnel accompanied by voiced text from Byron’s 1816 poem Darkness. The poem was written after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia 1815 which released so much debris into the atmosphere there was a perceptible dimming of the sun and drop in temperature of about 3 degrees. It is known as the year without summer. The tunnel leads to a viewing bench and screens where the blue sky turns white and then black. Current solar geoengineering models suggest that a haze of suspended particles in the atmosphere could reduce global warming but would also turn the blue sky white.

Cao Yuxi Shan Shui Paintings by AI uses deep network algorithms to learn from digital pixels of free hand oriental ink paintings on the web to produce unlimited simulations of landscape paintings combined with algorithms simulating the flow of water molecules creating a dynamic ever changing liquified landscape.

Cecelia Bengolea Favourite Positions is a 3D animation of the artist’s body liquified and melting, a body without boundaries where bodily fluids find new pathways and connections to synapses

Universal Everything Transfiguration – a figure keeps a steady pace in a continuous cycle of transformation, relentless unstoppable evolution through lava, rock, fur, water

Lux Carstens unicolor is a study in the psychology of colour perception and chromatics influenced by researchers, scientists and artists including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hermann von Helmholtz, Werner Heisenberg, Wilhelm Ostwald, Eckhard Bending, Josef Albers and Johannes Iten.

a’strict Morando is an installation of two transparent OLED screens showing video using x-ray and time lapse techniques of peonies as they bloom and die. Peonies are a symbol of wealth and prosperity in Korea and a popular subject for paintings over many decades as well as being displayed at main life events such as births, marriages and funerals.

Flower Meadow a kinetic sculpture by Swiss studio for media architecture

a’strict Starry Beach – beauty and power as luminous waves crash all around and as in a dream we are immersed yet physically untouched

Black Corporeal (breathe) – creating a haunting soundtrack to the whole exhibition, a critical examination on the relationship between materiality and the black psyche by Julian Knxx. It explores the idea that our ability to breathe – an act that is challenged by everything from air pollution, stress, anxiety and societal prejudice – is more than our lung’s ability to take in air, but a reflection of the way we live individually and together.

Terrestrial Act III at Thames-side Gallery curated by Hot Desque with works by Sam Carvosso Anna Reading Davinia-Ann Robinson Hannah Rowan Harry Smithson Giorgio van Meerwijk. Hot Desque creates a future-past landscape through the theatrical presentation of six artists’ sculptures within a set. Initially presented on stage at the Theatre Royal Newcastle within an ornate yet empty theatre, now, dislodged in a new spacetime, the set has transformed over time.

Matter takes the stage choreographed by humans in an atmospheric alchemical collaboration.

In (Matters of the Soul) at ASC Gallery with work by Stephen Nelson, Jane Millar, Olly Fathers, James Tailor, Stephen Palmer, John Bunker and Lex Shute.

Does artwork have a soul?

21 grams was the disputed weight of a person’s soul as measured in Duncan MacDougals 1901 experiments on people before and after death. Certain work defies classification, playing with its own materiality and the illusion of what its seems to be. Other work plays with the legacy of the previous life represented in its material and the soulful spirit that could lie within.

Such an interesting concept explored in these works.

A Strange Kind of Knowing presented by Arusha Gallery and Haarlem Gallery at Noho Studios with works by Verity Birt, Holly Bynoe, Kristina Chan, Fourthland, Susan Hiller, Katja Hock, Coral Kindred-Boothby, Penny McCarthy, Kate McMillan, Aimée Parrott, Chantal Powell, Tai Shani and Eleanor May Watson. A Strange Kind of Knowing investigates phenomena such as the weather, the sea and sea caves, cloud formations and fire; lost knowledge and civilisations; and the natural and psychological cycles of transformation.

These works are pushing at the boundaries of an intuitive connection to the natural world brought to a more acute awareness during lockdown months.

I am continuing to look at research showing it may be possible that humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. We know animals and birds have this ability and current studies suggest that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

I dropped some iron filings into a little water which evaporated leaving a pleasing deposit. I wanted to see if the filings lose their magnetism once oxidized and how the rusted filings would sit on the iris image.

I was invited by Luci Eldridge and Ian Dawson to present a talk and run a Cloud Chamber Workshop as part of the Images In The Making series, a Communities of Practice cross-years project at Winchester School of Art.

Images in the Making considers images in an expanded sense in terms of process, materiality, interaction, exploring how artworks evolve and come into being.

Images – be they human or machine – are entities that are made. They are drawn, sculpted, painted, mapped out, captured, rendered, visualised, spliced, amalgamated. Images in the Making considers images in the broadest sense, exploring them as fluid, dynamic entities that emerge and transform through making, unmaking, and remaking. Process is at the core of this project and we will think about ‘imaging’ as an unfolding activity, investigating how artworks change as they are made and circulated.

Writing the presentation allowed me to revisit and consider how I use process in a practice broadly to do with visualising the unseen.

As my starting point is often an unseen or maybe even an imagined object this might mean visualising a close approximation of something to open up the imagination to phenomena that is beyond our capability to visualise. This would include things like dark matter, higher dimensions in spacetime, or the aura of an object. Or it may be using technology to make visible something otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. Or a conflation of real and imagined such as seeing a galaxy in a frozen puddle.

In Patrick Harpur’s book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire – A History of the Imagination he talks about those inbetween spaces where things are not quite ‘there’ and not quite ‘not there’ which I think is an interesting space to look at when trying to bring the unseen out of the shadows. The book relates how myths have long been used to make sense of the world. For most of our evolution humans have believed in an otherworld of spirits – a metaphysical realm governed by archetypes. Daimons are given context in the book as elusive, contradictory, both material and immaterial concepts that still reside in our culture but are now so far removed from their personified shapes that we fail to recognise them.

All human experience is an edited account of full reality as neuroscientist Anil Seth tells us

“You’re locked inside a bony skull trying to figure what’s out there in the world. There’s no light inside the skull, there’s no sound either, all you’ve got to go on are streams of electrical impulses which are only indirectly related to things in the world, whatever they may be. Perception, figuring out what’s there has to be a process of informed guesswork”

 and then tangled with our reality according to Harpur

“…daimons inhabit another, often subterranean world which fleetingly interacts with ours. They are both material and immaterial, both there and not-there – often small, always elusive shape-shifters whose world is characterized by distortions of time and space and, above all, by an intrinsic uncertainty.

– the subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”

A few years ago when I was visiting and photographing streets and roads called Paradise trying to capture the aura of such a place I stopped to wonder what everything was made of. Did I need to look closer to find hidden patterns or clues in the everyday which might point to something sublime. This is when I turned to particle physics. I found the language to be quite like that of mythology, full of mysterious characters; the quarks, the muons, neutrinos. Characters governed by fundamental forces like the strong force and the weak force that are defined by their characteristics, just like the mythical gods. I also found the theories of particle physics to be as fantastical as the ancient tales where the laws of classical physics do not apply. I was amazed at the time to discover that most of the universe is hidden from us as mysterious dark matter and dark energy. 

To provide a relevant backdrop for the online presentation I set my dodecahedron sculpture Diazôgraphô by the window to light up the images of cosmic particle trails within. The dodecahedron is used here as a motif for the universe. The title translates from Greek as ‘to embroider’. Plato described the dodecahedron as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

The cloud chamber workshop gave students a chance to experience the otherworld of subatomic particles. Dark matter might be inaccessible to us but cosmic particles offer a more tangible contact  – although too small to see we can witness their effects through quite simple processes. In the chamber we see trails from naturally occurring background radiation as well as particles from outer space.

Out of the Studio

Not Painting at Copperfield

Inspired work by Nicola Ellis from Dead Powder series (first pic) in a show hitting the zeitgeist of rethink, repurpose the materials around us. Some beautiful and thoughtful work here much of which will confound you as to its material origins.

Darkness At Noon: Nigredo of a Pandemic at APT curated by Ruth Calland for Contemporary British Painting

Great to see some of Sarah Sparkes exquisite ghost painting series along with Chantal Powell’s alchemical totems and other works from 27 artists.

Alchemy is all about transformation from one state to another, the pursuit of a deeper truth as precious treasure. Alchemists were engaged in the Middle Ages with a physical process, trying to turn base materials into gold through a series of chemical processes, a metaphor for the transformation of the soul. There had to be a Nigredo, a dark night of the soul in order to purify it. Death and decay, destruction of the old to make way for the new, are both real and symbolic in these precarious times of ours. 

Bosco Sodi Totality at König London presents a grounded solar system we are able to walk amongst, surveying the raw materials of our creation. Heat, minerals and time. Very satisfying.

Tacita Dean – The Dante Project at Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square

Hell made heavenly in silvery surfaces, paradise emerges glimmering from the streets of LA.

Magical otherworlds. These stunning backdrops were created for the ballet based on Dante Alighieri’s 1320 narrative poem The Divine Comedy choreographed by Wayne McGregor at The Royal Opera House but can also transport you in their own right. I was lucky to also see them on stage. The sets progress from the monochrome backdrop of Inferno, through the luminous transitional state of Purgatorio into a circling colourfields of Paradiso.

The large-scale photographs printed as negatives are of Jacaranda Trees which bloom in hot climates when the entire foliage turns into purple blossoms. In negative the purple becomes an otherworldly green and the background streetscape is muted with white pencil. The monochrome photogravures of an inverted mountainous terrain in negative using silver ink reference Botticelli’s drawings which signify Dante and Virgil’s descent through the nine circles of hell.

Tacita Dean Monet Hates Me at Frith Street Gallery, Soho Square

The importance of objective chance as a tool of research used as the basis to craft 50 objects inspired by the random choice of a box of artefacts at The Getty Research Centre, Los Angeles. The objects pertaining to ‘an exhibition in a box’ include ‘the forged signature of Christian Dotremont, a long-dead Belgian surrealist, on a postcard; a letterpress copy of Piet Mondrian’s carte de visite, hand-corrected by Dean to match a pencilled correction on the original; Fluxus artist George Brecht’s Stamp Out Stamping stamped on vintage index cards; a vinyl record of Dean reading a montage of text fragments collated from her working photocopies; and ‘a foot of feet’ – a foot-long strip of film made of sixteen frames of found images of feet. Object 1, is a small book which also acts as the key to the provenance and manufacture of the other 49 objects.’

The enigmatic painting I love Lord Pannick sits outside the viewing area for Pan Amicus, filmed in 16mm on the Getty Estate but transporting the viewer to a golden classical Arcadia littered with Greek and Roman objects and imbued with the spirit of Pan “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Mixing It Up; Painting Today an exhibition of painting at the Hayward Gallery.

Charmaine Watkiss showing with Tiwani Contemporary at Cromwell Place.

Meet The Seed Keepers in Charmaine’s magical collection of works on paper. Powerful images brought to life with a luminous delicacy full of hidden symbolism waiting to be discovered.

Researching the medicinal and psychical capabilities of plants, Watkiss has personified a matrilineal pantheon of plant warriors safeguarding and facilitating cross-generational knowledge and empowerment.

When cosmic rays smash into the nuclei of gases high up in the atmosphere a variety of secondary particles are created but the only ones typically long-lived enough to make it to the Earth’s surface are muons. Muons are heavy electrons with a lifetime of 2.2 millionth of a second before they decay into an electron and a neutrino. Muons are typically produced around 15 km up in the atmosphere, a distance which takes around 50 millionths of a second to cross at the speed of light. This is over 20 muon lifetimes so they shouldn’t be able to get to Earth’s surface before they decay. However, since they are travelling approximately 98% the speed of light, time in their frame of reference is significantly stretched relative to time we experience on Earth. This means that they can travel much further in a shorter period so many Muons do make it to the surface. Special relativity is mind boggling.

Particles that arrive on Earth can cause computer processor bits to flip from one to zero or zero to one. The larger the computer is and the higher the altitude where it operates the more data corruption can occur. There are procedures to enable high altitude supercomputers like those at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb, to detect when a bit is flipped and raise an alarm to force a crash and system reset. The big problem is silent corruption that neither the computer or human notices that could occur in sensitive data such as nuclear weapons stewardship and modelling for national security, space exploration, climate change, disease transmission, new drug trials etc.

This is all research and stills from my video commission Cosmic Chiasmus for Queen’s Hall Digital which will be going live soon.

Further work on sculptural piece 90 light years home joining all the individual tiles to make raster patterns of fragmented data transmissions. Made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print and chinagraph pencil.

These are scrambled messages to outer space. This work is based on the raster patterns of the first TV signals when images were transmitted in a series of lines. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, one line at a time. It is similar to how one’s gaze travels when one reads lines of text. 

HD 70642 is a star about 90 light years away. It has roughly the same mass and radius as our sun. It has a companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit in our solar system. Waves like FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first radio and TV signals from Earth will be reaching this solar system about now.

The work for my planned cosmic ray detector interactive artwork is still at the sourcing components stage. I am gradually gathering many small packages containing mysterious miniscule parts with worrying warning labels. No mention of the handling precautions in the HOW TO video! Also certain items seem to be difficult to get hold of at the moment with shipping dates set to next spring.

I have sent off for the custom printed circuit boards from China with fingers heavily crossed.

The detector works on the basis that when a charged particle passes through a scintillating material, part of its energy is absorbed and re-emitted as photons. A light sensitive device called a silicon photo-multiplier (SiPM) coupled to the scintillator observes these photons. A single photon can make a measurable signal in the SiPM and can be amplified to shape the signal in such a way that it can measure both how many photons were observed and at what time they arrived using an Arduino Nano. I am hoping to divert that signal to set off a script controlling a layering of on screen images which generatively decay as each cosmic ray pulse is recorded.

In 2019 for the exhibition Reading Stones I created the site specific installation Time Crystals in the ancient St. Augustine’s Tower in Hackney. The nature of time itself was a concept that St Augustine of Hippo grappled with in his philosophical texts sixteen centuries ago and is still perplexing us today; namely, how to equate the subjective experience of time with an objective understanding.

In the news recently is the actual realisation of time crystals, a wholly new phase of matter to add to solids, liquids, gases and plasma that we are familiar with. Solid crystal structures repeat patterns across space whereas time crystal patterns repeat over time. Google researchers in collaboration with physicists at other universities have used Google’s quantum computer to produce this special phase of matter that changes constantly between states, but doesn’t appear to use any energy. All other known phases of matter are in thermal equilibrium meaning their their properties don’t change with time if the temperature is constant and settle into a low energy ambient state. Electronic computers use the binary system of 1s and 0s, on or off to process data. In a quantum computer, quantum bits have more possible states than just on and off adding uncertainty to outcomes. Qubits are unstable, acting differently when they’re under observation but time crystals remain stable while constantly flipping states and may be a huge breakthrough for complex computing and data modelling.

Pleased to announce work has finally been installed through Dais Contemporary at the impressive new Taj St James Court Hotel. Two screen print pieces from the everydaymatters series which are informed by the percentages of visible matter, dark matter and dark energy in the universe, and C-type on aluminium Pairi Daêza based around the refencing by Plato of the dodecahedron as the Aether holding the stars in the heavens. Dissecting landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

Expanding my etching skills with photopolymer process under the expert eye of J. Yuen Ling Chiu. It’s all in the inking up. Ling is such a great teacher.

Trying more new skills with a Super 8 workshop run by knowledgeable enthusiast Ben Slotover who packed a lot into one day. I really enjoyed trying the different cameras and the dreamlike spattered effects of the final films. Definitely something I want to try again though I think there will be lots to learn to achieve good results. I think it might work well to revisit my paradise works with this medium. The nostalgic ethereal quality appeals for this especially with the expired Kodak film as this needs to be flooded with light to work well.

Enjoyed the super/collider hosted zoom presentation Finding Asteroids with Dr Maggie Lieu research fellow in Machine Learning and Cosmology at the University of Nottingham. As of April 2021, there are over 25,000 near-Earth objects and many of these are a potential risk to life here on Earth, but in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there is believed to be over 2 million asteroids, some of which can reach 1000km in size! Scientists are actively searching for new, and tracking known asteroids. Often, they won’t know for sure where an asteroid will hit or how big an impact it will make until a few days before the collision. Machine learning is being used to keep a look out for potentially hazardous asteroids heading towards Earth. Interesting to hear how cosmic rays interfere with the data searches for asteroids by mimicking the traces made by asteroids but at such a different scale.

I joined Aphra Shemza for her online digital painting and co-creating workshop. The workshop was great fun, centered around the shemza.digital project which is a collaboration with computer artist Stuart Batchelor. Shemza.digital is based on the work of Aphra’s grandfather, the well-known British/Pakistani painter Anwar Jalal Shemza. It was inspiring and at times shocking to hear the family history and his struggle for recognition against the racism of the institutions he came into contact with as a young art student at the Slade and beyond.


Rewarding visit to Night Shaking with The Ingram Collection at The Lightbox, Woking. A spinetingling collection of objects dredged from the subconscious on a Night Sea Journey accompanied by enlightening and poetic text

“On the ‘Night Sea Journey’, what we think we know is held up to be an illusion. Our minds cannot fully grasp the changes of consciousness that take place during this ordeal. Ego and persona are forced to give way. This difficult inner terrain holds within it a hidden potential to experience a dramatic transformation of consciousness”

Objects and paintings made by Chantal Powell and Dean Melbourne are brought together with chosen artefacts from The Ingram Collection as the artists draw us into the Dark Night of the Soul and the Night Sea Journey narrative.

Chantal talking here on the symbolism of crowns and boats in alchemy and transformation.