Archives for posts with tag: Etching

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also testing ideas for a magnetoreception performance mask. It became clear I will have to be careful with the iron filings around the eyes.

I was excited by the results of testing chine collé under black etching ink. It’s very subtle but I didn’t think it would show at all so was surprised and plan to try this with other ideas.

Great to see the launch of Yinka Shonibare’s new project Guest Artist Space in Lagos – this will be an international space for knowledge exchange between established and emerging artists, it will have urban and rural elements and involve local people as well as visiting artists for a true cultural exchange.

A video which I was invited to contribute to along with many artists Guest Projects has supported in the past is currently being shown as part of The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition programme A Century of the Artist’s Studio – Link to video here.

I am so grateful to Yinka Shonibare for his generosity and genuine interest in emerging and early career artists and awarding Laboratory of Dark Matters a month long residency that enabled us to achieve so much in 2017 including developing and running my first Cloud Chamber Workshops.

Exhibition Visits –

Gala Porras-Kim at Gasworks Out of an instance of expiration comes a perennial showing.

This wonderful exhibition is playful yet thoughtful, giving voice to the spirits of displaced, forgotten or overlooked fragments of history that have been institutionalised. The artworks suggest ways improve the material and spiritual conditions of artefacts stored in archaeological collections around the world such as re-aligning the sarcophagus or offering an awakening deity a more familiar prospect than the modern museum room in which it finds itself. Porras-Kim gives equal value to the dust gathering from artefacts stored in the back rooms of institutions and invites the spirits to communicate in the swirling patterns of marbling inks.

San Mei Gallery showing Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby – not yet

Walls smeared with slime green are hung with prints on aluminium that shimmer in the low light setting with video morphing of a bubbling concoction of swamp things.

Noémie Goudal –  Post Atlantica at Edel Assanti

Luscious imagery dissecting the impact of deep time on landscape and climate.  

Berndnaut Smilde – Momentum at Ronchini Gallery

I was hoping to see a cloud produced in the gallery but had to settle for the documentation of previous clouds created in various locations presented in the Nimbus photography series. Apparently the artist very rarely makes this work as performance.

Shuster + Moseley – do not be afraid of the brilliant lights at Gallery Rosenfeld

Light bling of refraction and reflection when photons travel through a glass medium splitting and bouncing in reminder of its own physical presence

Also at Gallery Rosenfeld, Bongsu Park – in dreams we gather

Dreamscapes undulating through the darkness, echoing active brainwaves producing light within our sleeping skulls.

Rivane Neuenschwander Commonplace 1999 in Tate Tanks

Talcum powder is brushed into rectangular shapes on the floor, being remade every time it is exhibited. Simple gestures turn the stuff of everyday life into something unfamiliar and poetic.

James Freeman Gallery – Juliette Losq and Stuart Sandford in Elysian Fields

Interesting pairing of decay and perceived perfection.

Paintings rather than the layered installations I admire from Juliette Losq here. Delicate pale light seeping through these landscapes caught in the haze of a slow and gentle decomposition.

A close encounter with a full size Narcissus is only available through scanning a QR code to be experienced via the screen. Only his small pornworld counterparts were present, cast from the idealism of the digital realm into bronze.

Haig Aivazian All of your stars are but dust on my shoes at The Showroom

Two very moving films looking at light and fire, primordial gifts and how they are used for power and control.

Geo-poetic is a great description of how these films traverse history and borders exposing who decides what is seen and what is not and who holds the flaming torch over the touch paper.

Portals at Lisson Gallery curated by Ossian Ward

Images include Susan Hiller, Ryan Gander, Rodney Graham, Shirazeh Houshiary, John Latham, Mary Corse and Sean Scully.

A mixed offering of thresholds to alternative spaces, visible, conceptual, mythical or speculative.

Richenda Court Glass Town at The Muse at 269

Luminous work reflecting a fragile crystalline world

Good to see Lisa Pettibone’s suspended sculpture Instrument of Thought – A meditation on Matter and Light. The physics of the cosmos held in delicate balance as mirrored surfaces, crystals and rocks interplay hinting at ideas such as gravity, dark matter and the speed of light.

On Hannah Arendt: The Conquest of Space at Richard Saltoun with works by Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Elaine Reichek and Carey Young considering the question Has man’s conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?

The question is central to Arendt’s essay written in 1963 which rings alarm bells on the direction science and technology may be leading the human experience. The possible future Arendt foresaw of a world remade by the curiosity of the human race but transformed into somewhere unrecognisable to the humanist where even the scientist loses some essence of human nature as the world is described in a mathematical language that cannot be experienced with human senses may be bearing down upon us.

Lots to think about from this encounter. I think writing when she did, when the first man in space was quite recent history and before the internet, her concerns about a loss of what it is to be human, driven by technology effecting every part of our lives until there is no part left that hasn’t or isn’t in some way remade by humans was very prescient. I wonder how she would feel today as we rush into space like never before and not so much for exploration as exploitation. Arendt described herself as “a kind of phenomenologist” which I understand as looking at things purely as they appear to us without trying to explain why or how and accept meaning that comes from direct sensory experience. Works of art can act as mediators between the consciousnesses of the author and the reader as a direct attempt to communicate the experience of being human and the world around. Phenomenologists are interested in the way we come to share similar understanding of the world a collective subconscious or implicit agreement about how the world looks, sometimes referred to as the life-world.

An introduction to the essay link here presented by Roger Berkowitz, director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. Science transforms what it means to be human although we are still bound to our earthly bodies and subject to fate and fortune. Science does not give a human experience of the world, it confounds common sense. If our growth in understanding can only be expressed in mathematical terms then we have lost rather than gained a way of describing our world experience. Human thinking comes from metaphors and our thoughts are earthly, if we are taken off planet then the Earth becomes an object not our home.

Secret of Lightness at Parafin

Aimée Parrott, Andrew Pierre Hart, Tim Head, Andrea Heller, Laurence Kavanagh

Beautiful selection of works curated by Louisa Hunt that reflect the premise of Calvino’s text to pull against what holds us down and make a creative leap opening onto a new perspective.

‘Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. The images of lightness that I seek should not fade away like dreams dissolved by the realities of the present and future…’

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium: Lightness (1985)