Art and Science Projects

As a system of visual representation, art has had a long history of recording human investigations into the world of nature and, even more broadly, into speculating, even fantasising, about what that world might look like—out there in unseen worlds or in there, in the body, beneath the surface of things. An unsatisfied curiosity is a characteristic of human kind. Leonardo da Vinci is the prime example of the artist/scientist, forever looking and drawing what he or she has seen and, on the foundation of actuality, proceeding to give visual substance to more speculative ideas.

In 2011, Ruth Napper, of the Anatomy Department at the University of Otago, suggested a new initiative: a nine-month project in which artists and scientists of specific disciplines might be encouraged to share ideas and experience, out of which artworks could be created, inspired by that mutual interaction. She joined forces with Peter Stupples at the Dunedin School of Art, and together they organised the first Art/Science Project, Art and Neuroscience November 2012-August 2013, that resulted in an exhibition and catalogue. Since then, each year has seen a new Project with a similar aim.

That aim is creative cooperation—not the illustration of scientific research, but the speculative imagery that comes from the mind and hand of the artist in response to a close acquaintance with the actuality of scientific processes and ideas—or even commentary from the left field upon something that scientists take for granted, as part of their unconscious sense of normality and rationality.

It is always hoped that not only artists and scientists can gain from this creative association, extending their respective cognitive and visual worlds, but that they can both offer the public, the community in which the artists and scientists work and live, as well as future artists and scientists—young people of today—an opportunity and incentive to look afresh, or anew, into aspects of their own bodies or worlds of enquiry to which they had previously paid little attention.

The Art+Science themes have been co-ordinated and curated by Pam McKinlay since 2018.