Sculpting with Light

This project was supported by The Leverhulme Trust who awarded me with a grant to be artist in residence at Durham University during the summer of 2017, hosted by Ushaw College. The collaboration was concerned with light, sound, colour and the order of the cosmos.

The residency, 'Sculpting with Light: Medieval and Modern Cosmology' confronted human attempts to grasp and master the structure and meaning of the universe. Inspired by Durham’s resources, from illuminated medieval manuscripts to the DiRac2-Super-Computer, I investigated the world of medieval cosmology from Aristotle to Dante, via Islamic astronomy, in conjunction with the cutting edge of modern galaxy modelling and soft matter physics and material-flow.

I explored key themes of medieval and modern cosmology within the project. The central importance of light to the universe in both periods, the notion of power and movement within the heavens, the importance of geometry in establishing sense of place, and ideas about unity and complexity, order and disorder, structure and entropy. Medieval and modern cosmologies have very different premises, but an underlying interest in order, mathematical explanation, and a powerful sense of the incredible scale of the universe.

I worked with Professor Richard Bower at the ICC and Professor Tom McLeish in the Department of Physics. Bower’s major research is on Galaxy modelling, the central elements to which are a visualisation of the components of the universe, dark matter, dark energy, light, stars and galaxies. McLeish, meanwhile, is an expert on soft matter physics, and on how materials flow (rheology), providing new lines of thought on the manipulation of media.

Throughout the residency I produced a number of drawings, installations (Ether, Lux Obscura) a series of light paintings and a video. The residency culminated in Empyrean, a sculpture that employs parallax to give the illusion of the expanding and contracting spheres of the medieval cosmos. It was sunsequently longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2019.