Archives for posts with tag: directional magnetic steel

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.

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.