What’s the difference between an artist and a scientist? That’s the question we’ve been asking in earnest since mid 2018 with our friends the Dundee Print Collective (DPC). We’ve been collaborating with them on our latest science art project, which has come to fruition in an exhibition held first in LifeSpace science art research gallery and now on tour in Arthurstone Library.
DPC have a great history of creating cool, innovative projects. Each one usually has some key constraint. This could be a colour palette, a theme, a paper type – really anything. The scientists who took part in the project were keen on the idea of being treated the same as more traditional artists. The DPC duo knew that they wanted to do something slightly different with this project. Could we find a way of doing both?
As it turns out, yes we could. Over the course of play dates, meetings, conversations and even a WhatsApp group, a select group from each side formed a tight-knit community. We did end up with constraints, with a bright, neon colour scheme inspired by objects in our labs. Importantly, we also ended up going in a very physically different direction from previous DPC work. Our exhibition is made of three-dimensional, sculptural pieces made from perspex. The works each reflected the personalities. This included references coded into art, images from research and very literal reflections of faces and names.
We’re incredibly excited to see the show come to life. We had a great evening at the launch, with a great number of people coming and staying for a long time – thanks for making us have to kick you out. We hope it was because you were so engrossed in the work and conversations. Perhaps even more importantly, we’ve created a new community – our WhatsApp group is alive and well.
What began as a typo is now true. We have an exhibition by researchers from the Dundee Print Collective and artists from WCAIR. We’re immensely grateful to everyone in the library, including the Stobswell Forum and the Maryfield Regeneration team, for hosting us in the space, now that we’re on tour.
Read on below to find out more about the pieces and artists…
The hands are the most intricate visible structure of the human body. Not just marvels of design able to perform complex mechanical actions, they also have the uncanny ability to express the characteristics and emotional states of their possessors.
They can beg or refuse, take or give, be open or clenched, show content or anxiety. They can be young or old, and they can create and discover.
Using images of gloves from both laboratory and studio, Amy Jones explores the parallels of the artist and the scientist.
Drug Discovery is a process which involves looking at many compounds to see their effect on the target disease. We use multi-well plates, a collection of tiny test tubes, to enable us to test hundreds or thousands of different chemical entities at one time. This provides us with a series of tiny snapshots which we fit together to let us see a more complete picture.
This collection of work is inspired by the people, equipment, images, colours and detection methods used in the WCAIR laboratories.
As a researcher, it can be quite easy to lose oneself in the work that you are doing. The nature of research can also be very repetitious and, at times, it can feel as though you are just another cog in the machine. This art piece aims to make visible the researchers and the role that they play in their research, to emphasise the importance of the individual within their field and illustrate the tools they use to conduct their research, and the part they play in a project as a whole.
There are many similarities between a scientist and artist, and a laboratory and a print studio. Take a scientist from the laboratory and put them in a print studio, they will feel comfortable in the approach to image creation, due to the sometimes meticulous nature of printmaking. Put a printmaker next to the scientist in that print studio, and they will discuss the repetition, trial and error involved in their daily work and making mistakes to proceed.
I aimed at producing something that connected my life in Dundee to my hometown in Portugal, Vila do Conde. I found quite a few similarities.
Dundee and Vila do Conde are coastal cities. Each has a river bathing them: the Tay and the Rio Ave. As such, both cities have a bridge that connects the margins and allows the movement of people and goods.
Science is about gathering information. It’s about studying, learning, transforming and passing on the knowledge to improve lives.
In this piece, the bridge has 2 meanings. Besides being a feature that connects my two cities, the bridge is a metaphor for bi-directional flux of knowledge, as it flows between scientists and public, and for the delivery of goods, like new medicines, that result from our work at WCAIR.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese (as well as the Spanish) sailed the seas. We showed Europe new lands and maritime routes to places that were, until then, only reachable by land. This was a period we call “Os Descobrimentos”, literally translated as “The Discoveries”. Vila do Conde, with a long tradition of boat building, has a replica of one of the type of boats, Nau, used in the 16th century. Similarly, Dundee also has a boat that was used for the expansion of knowledge: the RRS Discovery.
Discovery is the key word in this piece; it not only links the thirst for knowledge and adventure with Science, but it also links Dundee to Vila do Conde.
The uncoloured engraved Nau resembles the traditional handcraft from Vila do Conde: renda de bilros, or bobbin lace.
I could not leave out the beautiful Highlands, represented here by a DNA chromatogram. These coloured peaks give us the sequence of nucleotides (A, T, C and G) that make up genes; you can see the sequence on the bridge. A combination of three nucleotides translates into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This gene is special as it holds a secret: it translates into my name and surname.