Skip to content

Art / Science Collaboration

June 9, 2015

From 1/9/14 until 30/6/15 I was Leverhulme artist in residence at Glasgow University’s Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology (MCSB), working in collaboration with staff in the Plant Science group in the Bower Building, principally with molecular biologist Dr. Allan James and biochemist Prof. Hugh Nimmo.  This 10-month residency will be followed by an exhibition of the resultant work in the University’s Memorial Chapel, from 25/9/15 – 6/11/15. The project aim has been to make art in response to the laboratory environment, focusing in particular on the research carried out by Allan, a Research Associate in Hugh’s group.  The Plant Science group uses several different approaches to study the plant circadian clock, particularly the ways in which variations in temperature and light influence the clock and hence plant behaviour.  The work to be exhibited will be an interpretion of the scientific process and scientific creativity, from ideas developed through collaboration with MCSB staff.

The project has been funded by an Artist-in-Residence Grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Dr. Allan James keeps a blog of his thoughts on laboratory life at: and his It’s About Time collaborative project here:


IMG_1095-copyIMG_1022-copyIMG_1027-copyThe show has been successful in spreading the word about the project and in conveying what it is that I’ve got to say about the experience of making art about the lab and observing the way that scientists work.  Lots of interesting feedback from visitors either connected with art or with science or neither.  The good thing about the Chapel is the broad range of people that pass through it for various reasons such as concerts, talks, weddings etc or to worship or just look at the architecture – so all those different types of people have seen the show, which is a great result!

Week 44 (w/b 29.6.15).  Scroll down for earlier posts.

Residency completed – now to sort through all the work that I’ve gathered during the past 10 months and prepare it for the exhibition in September.

Week 43 (w/b 22.6.15).

Diluting_Triton copy


Week 42 (w/b 15.6.15). Preparing_a_QPCR_plate. copy 2 Week 41 (w/b 8.6.15). Blot development. DevBlotGroup Week 40 (w/b 1.6.15). Microwave oven, for heating molecular biology reagents. Microwave Week 39 (w/b 25.5.15). “The plants are what is interesting….”. Dry_ArabaMan Week 38 (w/b 18.5.15). DkRmCombo Week 37 (w/b 11.5.15). Flower pot. Flower Pot2 Flower Pot multi Week 36 (w/b 4.5.15). A drawing of a razor blade cover, from Allan’s workbench, done on the ipad. Razor_blade_cover copy copy Developed thus…… YelPnk ….and then into something else.  I’m interested in the concept of these repeat experiments that scientists do where a set of similar things are subjected to particular conditions to see if one of the things will do something different from the rest (please excuse the jargon). MultiBlade Week 35 (w/b 27.4.15). Repeat experiment using drawing of mystery object from lab bench. MultiTest copy Week 34 (w/b 20.4.15). Recent lab epiphany for Allan.  Results from in vitro transcribed clock RNA experiment.  I’ve altered the gel images in photoshop.  Ideas for screen prints. Double copy Double copy 2 Week 33 (w/b 13.4.15). A drawing of a water bath float – done on the ipad. BioLabs Week 32 (w/b 6.4.15). Words by Dr. Allan James – photoshopped by me. Exon Skip group Week 31 (w/b 30.3.15). IMG_20150331_092057293After seeing an item about my project in the MVLS Newsletter, Alli Jackson, Research and Communications Manager at Glasgow Polyomics, invited me to visit her workplace at the University’s Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre to have a guided tour – which I did on Tuesday and found very interesting.  They are a research facility in MVLS that generates and analyses biological samples on a massive scale – using ‘omics technologies – they look at the profiles of different types of molecules in a system – e.g. all the proteins bacteria produces, perhaps comparing things like when they are under stress to normal conditions. Or looking at what happens to the metabolites in your blood after you eat a fatty meal compared to a healthy meal. Or looking to see if you have a gene that is being produced above normal levels, that might confer susceptibility to a disease. They do a lot of public engagement events and were on TV last week.  Their website is here: Week 30 (w/b 23.3.15). Four of the 15 posters produced and given to me by Dr Stuart Sullivan, advertising a series of talks that he organised in the Bower Building.  I like the titles and choice of images.  I’m thinking of doing some watercolours of these. Seminar 12-12-14 copySeminar 13-2-15 copy Seminar 15-7-14 copySeminar 31-1-14 Week 29 (w/b 16.3.15). Felt tip pen drawings on A3 coloured paper, of objects from a work bench in the Bond Laboratory. Composite Composite2 Week 28 (w/b 9.3.15). Drawings of details of two big plastic DNA models in Marshall Stark’s office, done on the ipad. Marshall Model 2 Marshall Model 1 copy copy Week 27 (w/b 2.3.15). The University Chapel Gallery.  This is where I’ll have an exhibition of the work produced during the residency – in September, 2015.  It’s a wonderful space and isn’t at all the kind of environment that I’d originally envisaged showing the outcome of an art/science project but I’m getting into the idea of it potentially being slightly bizarre – but in a good way. IMG_0423 Week 26 (w/b 23.2.15). An ipad drawing of a Petri dish, before and after shifting the layers around. Petri_dish copy copy Petri_dish Week 25 (w/b 16.2.15). Meet Ken.  He’s wearing my old trainers. IMG_0380 Week 24 (w/b 9.2.15). Ernst Haeckel – Kunstformen der Natur.  Works based on microscopic botanical images (1899 -1904).  Passed on to me by Dr. Jan Petersen, one of the Bower Building scientists with whom I am collaborating. Ernst Haeckel Week 23 (w/b 2.2.15). ipad drawing of Sartorius.  That’s the name stamped on this piece of lab equipment.  It’s for weighing stuff and it’s called a ‘balance’. Sartorius Week 22 (w/b 26.1.15). An ipad drawing of loom bands found on Allan’s workbench and belonging to his daughter.  He’s brought in a pile of them and is planning on using them to make a model to illustrate science ideas.  My drawing has ended up looking a bit like a face – unintentionally. Faceloops Week 21 (w/b 19.1.15). Useful low-tech apparatus in Eirini Kaiserli’s lab.  Boxes for putting plants in to see how they react to coloured light. IMG_0271  IMG_0272 Week 20 (w/b 12.1.15). A drawing of a pipette – done on the ipad. Pipette copy Week 19 (w/b 5.1.15). Allan is building a kinetic sculpture in the lab.  I’ve been helping out. KineticSculpKineticSclp Week 18 (w/b 29.12.14). These twelve coloured drawings were done by four of the scientists in the Bower Building after I’d given them each a pad and black pen, with instructions to draw objects in and around the workplace.  I’ve added colour to help identify who did what.   Red: Prof John Christie.  Purple: Dr Allan James.  Blue: Prof Hugh Nimmo.  Green: Dr Jill Nimmo. 12mix Week 17 (w/b 22.12.14). A selection of lab photos by scientists Prof John Christie, Dr Allan James, Prof Hugh Nimmo, Dr Jill Nimmo and Prof Marshall Stark.  I asked each person to take photos of objects in and around the workplace. 9photos Week 16 (w/b 15.12.14). Different stages of my drawing development for mini monitor animated sequence. Layr1 Week 15 (w/b 8.12.14). Prof. Hugh Nimmo & ELP 2nd album, Tarkus.         Movement study. Tarkus Movement thing Week 14 (w/b 1.12.14). Blue experiment.    intron2consensus RNAfold Blukote copy copyintron2consensus RNAfold Week 13 (w/b 24.11.14). Wobbly drawings of forceps done on ipad, for animation purposes. Forceps3 Forceps2 Forceps Week 12 (w/b 17.11.14). Electro blotting tank (blotter).     B&W experiment Blotter Persl1 Week 11 (w/b 10.11.14). Vacuum press gauge in Marshall Stark’s office.       Mitchell in the lab. 20141112_110305  Mitchell Week 10 (w/b 3.11.14). Kalanchoe Fedtschenkoi growing in the greenhouse on roof of the Boyd Orr Building. IMG_0121 IMG_0125 copy Week 9 (w/b 27.10.14). Practical session.  Seating disarray. Chairs copy copy Week 8 (w/b 20.10.14). Coat tattoos using dye from the lab. 20141021_145650 copy  20141021_145650 copy Week 7 (w/b 13.10.14). Lab coat possibilities. Coatwee  Colcoat copy Week 6 (w/b 6.10.14). Campus wildflowers.                                   Machine that rocks things. 20140926_094717  Rockr  Week 5 (w/b 29.9.14). Interesting article in PNAS: 13245.full Week 4 (w/b 22.9.14). Making card sculptures for putting on the tables in various common rooms, to help publicise the project. 20140925_10373820140925_152336 Week 3  (w/b 15.9.14). Allan’s lab work this morning – aliquotting master mixes for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).  PCR – described as one of the monumental scientific techniques of the twentieth century, invented in 1983 by Dr. Kary Mullis Painting 33                  Micro2 Week 2  (w/b 8.9.14).    Over at the Gregory Building, Allan did some work on crossing a mutant Arabidopsis plant with a fluorescent one – a highly delicate job which involves stripping back one and dabbing its flower with the other. 20140912_103303                Far check Below – I watched Arabidopsis plants being sprayed with a substance which makes them fluorescent in the dark.  They are then photographed by a very sensitive camera in total black-out conditions, showing how some of the plants glow more than others.  The camera is so light sensitive that some of the pictures it produced actually show tiny cosmic rays darting about. D3b2Allan1Luc1min Week 1  (w/b 1.9.14). Here’s an interesting article by science writer Robert Frederick, passed on to me by Hugh.  It’s about an art/science project by scientist-turned-artist Edward Tufte   12571.full fromHughSept14  In the opening sentence there’s a line that I like – “…seeing without the use of words”.  Edward Tufte is an interesting artist: Below – Mugshots taken in the staff kitchen.  Lots of science logos, unsurprisingly. Day2 Mug1 Day1 Mug12 Day1 Mug11 Day1 Mug8 Day1 Mug4 Day1 Mug3 Day1 Mug2 Day1 Mug1  Day1-Mug6-copy Below – drawings of Allan placing 900 seedlings, one at a time, on agar in preparation for students starting in three weeks’ time.  The seeds are Arabidopsis – a common weed that can be found, for example, in the cracks between paving slabs.  Arabidopsis is a very good indicator for helping to understand how plants, in general, react to changes in temperature.  The scribbly words are the names of Arabidopsis seeds from different parts of the world. D2sda D2sdb D2sdc D2sdd D2sde D2sdf D2sdg Below – photo of complementary bottle opener keyring which came with a package of science equipment delivered to the lab. Day1 Keyring

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: