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ArtSci Postcards from Midlothian

This October, along with InterSci, we took our Art & Science on a Postcard workshop to Midlothian Science Festival and the community of Dalkeith over two Saturdays. With Dalkeith Arts Centre as our base,  we brought together cancer researchers, art psychotherapists, quantum biologists, multidisciplinary artists, linguists, neuroscientists, crafters and collagists based in Midlothian and Edinburgh for some tea and chat at our mixer event on Saturday 5th. Our attendees exchanged experience, creativity, knowledge, research and bonded over a collective fascination and wonderment for each other’s day to day working practices.

We gathered again the next Saturday, our artists and scientists were paired up and the conversations and exchanges deepened. Topics as broad-ranging as computational linguistics, ovarian cancer research, graphic design, illustration, infomatics, plant biology, neuroscience, sculpture, Rothko, swiss roll intestine, research involving worms and nematodes and much more were explored over endless cups of tea and coffee.

Inspired by these exchanges, we then got hands-on with a wealth of different art materials to translate the connections and conversations onto a postcard. We had paint ‘dirty pours’ inspired by quantum plant biology, craft felting influenced by neurology, collage inspired by the complex landscape of the genome, paper layering evoking overlapping meanings in languages and paint blowing inspired by cancer research to name just some exchanges.

These are some of the brilliant creative responses inspired by the art-science connections made on the day.

Quantum physicist Alex and visual artist Liz
mixed media artist Mary and DNA researcher Eleanor

On the left, a painter and a quantum physicist, Liz and Alex used paint marbling and ‘dirty pours’ to evoke cells and the wavelike dynamics happening inside them. The uncertainty of this technique captured the uncertainty behind quantum physics. This postcard captures the feeling of being inside nature with cell-like shapes, and surrounding small waves.

The postcard on the right was created by DNA researcher Elenor and artist Mary. DNA is a ribbon of biological molecules denoted by letters that make up the genetic code. CRISPR is a gene-editing tool used in labs to study DNA. Like scissors cutting ribbon, CRISPR works by cutting DNA. Our postcard uses collage to represent CRISPR in action.

Visual artist Miriam and ovarian cancer researcher Amelia
Synthetic biologist Jack and neuroscientist/Artist Kim

For the postcard on the left, artist Miriam was inspired by researcher Amelia’s description of her ovarian cancer research, in particular, microscopic work with fat cells. Inspired by the aesthetic of these cells and using a printmaking process Miriam explored these patterns and structures to depict an abstracted microscopic space showing noise and disruption alongside order and uniformity.

Tp produce the postcard on the right, synthetic biologist Jack and neuroscientist/artist Kim worked together on an artistic interpretation of a two-stage research process involving proteins. This work represents the second stage. The mutated protein is used to bring two fluorescent proteins (red and green) together, using illumination by ultraviolet light.

A felted neuron plant by craft felter Maria, neuroscientist Niamh and art psychotherapist Angeliki
We also had a group comprising of craft felter Maria, neurobiologist Niamh and art psychologist Angeliki who went rogue from the usual postcard format. Inspired by their exchanges, they used felting to create a ‘myelinated neuron plant with pro-regenerative and pro-inflammatory microglia flower’ . Wool Roving was taught and used to emulate nerve cells in a fun and colourful way. The final product was three nerve cell flowers. The three bonded so much over their crafting, they formed a group, ‘Nina & The Neurones’.

All of the works produced at our Midlothian Science Festival Art & Science on a Postcard workshop with InterSci are currently on display at Dalkeith Arts Centre Autumn Exhibition at Riccio Gallery, Dalkeith until 1st November. If you’re in Dalkeith, pop in to see these brilliant creative representations of art-science exchanges.

Maria, Niamh and Angeliki, aka, Nina and the Neurons

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