“ELEANOR, you make wheat look really sexy,” a colleague told artist Eleanor Gates-Stuart the other day. She couldn’t be more pleased.
Gates-Stuart has just installed “StellrScope”, her science-art commission for the Centenary, at Questacon.“Like magic aren’t they?” she says explaining the unique installations that will run until September.
Projected on to a tiled floor are images – stalks and ears of wheat – momentarily intercepted by quite different images when you step around the floor.
To the image of a sectioned piece of wheat, we hear the “sound of wheat”, commissioned from ANU music student Marlene Radice.
The piece de resistance is the set of interactive hemispherical displays called “StellrLume Domes”, complete with internal projections. But if you hold your hand over the picture on the dome, you’ll get something else, maybe part of wheat patriarch William Farrer’s diary.
And what about those dull, boring black screens? Just get in front of them and holographic images leap out as if in attack. I think I’m looking at a lobster, but no, it’s a wheat weevil.
“The weevil is this big,” she says, pressing her index finger to her thumb, but we’ve enlarged them and they’ve got the quality of 3D movies.”
From another screen I’m assaulted by spikes of “ancestor wheats” that Gates-Stuart has been growing virtually. “They’re like little Christmas trees – I think the kids will have fun, don’t you?”
That’s essential, given the location of her exhibition in Questacon.
Gates-Stuart is adamant that she is not a science educator. On the contrary, she insists, she is most definitely an artist, saying: “My role is to be a magnet, to draw people to the wheat.”
Nonetheless, she’s an artist with a firm grounding in science and can talk the talk – biological mutants, phonemics, numerator sequences and so on. That’s why she was appointed Science-Art Fellow at the CSIRO .
Gates-Stuart is a mediator between art and science, but her love of aesthetic beauty remains strong.
“It’s adorable how it moves in the wind but it can also be spiky and sharp,” she says of our most valuable export crop.
“StellrScope”, Questacon, King Edward Terrace, Parkes, daily until September 1.
MAIN PHOTO: Minute wheat weevils… “We’ve enlarged them and they’ve got the quality of 3D movies,” says Gates-Stuart.