Review / Awe and discovery when art meets science

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Ingeborg Hansen, ‘Butterfly’ screen print, 2018
THIS exhibition reveals hidden worlds and reawakens a sense of awe and discovery.

Art practice frequently examines underlying structures and dynamics when responding to the world. These include social and political forces, as well as physical and biological processes. In the process, fixed ideas are often replaced by questioning and uncertainty. Similar processes have been underway in the scientific world. This exhibition, held in conjunction with National Science Week, shows collaborative works by artists and scientists based in Canberra. 

The first thing to strike you on visiting the exhibition in the evening are the luminous works by UK Frederick and Nicci Haynes hanging on the back wall. 

The screen prints on chemigrams by UK Frederick are based on photographs of the night sky taken from the 1950s through to the 1980s including annotated descriptors and boundaries denoting areas of interest. The viewer is drawn into this world of possible discovery amongst the stars shining against the intensely dark night sky.  The works were made in collaboration with Dr Brad Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mount Stromlo.

The etchings by Nicci Haynes have a dynamic poetic presence and continue her previous works interacting with music. The works respond to various musical pieces, including “Blag’s Song” performed by Blag Teräb from Bimaden Village, Western Province, PNG. The viewer is left wanting to hear the music to which these artworks respond. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with Dr Julia Miller at ANU’s Centre for Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

On the neighbouring wall are screen prints on grained paper by Ingeborg Hansen that are best seen during the day when the colours truly come to life. The images of butterflies, bees and silverfish have a fragility and vulnerability that follow the intervention of human actions.  They were produced in conjunction with the Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO. 

Anna Madeleine, ‘Pranatamangsa,’ 2018
On the opposite wall hang works by Erica Seccombe, an award-winning artist for her work using computer-generated images to visualise biological processes involving plants and simple organisms. Her work is undertaken in conjunction with Stuart Ramsden at ANU Department of Applied Mathematics and Vizlab, National Computational Infrastructure. 

The highlight of the exhibition for me is the display of works by Anna Madeleine, produced during a 2017 Asialink Arts residency with Common Room Networks Foundation, Bandung, Indonesia, supported by ArtsACT. On the wall hang circular black and white images of the night sky over Indonesia at different times of the year. The works come to life when viewed via a free app on an iPhone or iPad. The result is a dynamic augmented reality artwork “Pranatamangsa” that depicts natural phenomena associated with celestial events based on traditional Indonesian farming calendars. The world is revealed as a place of undiscovered meanings and of mystery.


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