Friday 15 June 2012


Part 1: I asked the right questions too early and got scared...

I know nothing about science that reaches beyond the first page of my iodine stained GCSE text book. I was an arty/musical kid, but at school I was ‘top streamed’ in the sciences. I realised that if I re-worded textbook paragraphs cleverly, neatly, illustrations an’ all, I could spin off ‘A’s really easily. I could regurgitate theories. But I didn’t get it! And I still don’t. Guess I’m not wired that way, just couldn’t grasp the theories, like science dyslexia of sorts, same with Mathematics. It all seemed so definitive, so...learned. Chemistry was the worst, periodical tables appeared like a pretty embroidered sampler, I was looking at the charts like some sort of symbiotic code, or hieroglyphs, recognising shape but not significance.

I was enthusiastic though, I questioned ‘why?’ ‘Why this letter, why did they choose this why this structure, what’s its implication?’ Question, after, question, after question, my curiosity was never satisfied. An annoying precocious brat most probably, I wanted answers before I learned the underpinning theories, I was impatient. Inevitably, when dealing with the teaching and learning of sciences, especially biology and Chemistry, the more the question ‘why?’ is asked, the closer you become as a teacher to explaining the beginning of all life itself, Darwin and therefore how this contradicts with religion and the suggestion that there is no purpose or meaning to life. What?? Woah. I wished I hadn’t asked.

These are huge concepts for a young child to understand theoretically and grasp emotionally. I switched off. I bailed. I wasn’t ready for the epic stuff! I asked the right questions too early and got scared. Yup, I’m a wimp. So, my flirtation with science ended and my love affair with art began...

Art and science seem like opposites in one sense; Art is expressive, emotive, decorative, or conceptual. Conversely, science is fundamentally finite (with infinite applications), logical, ordered, practical, functional.

Or so I thought. But the more I study art, the more I see parallels with Science. The one main, glaringly obvious one being that ultimately, both are about creation; Creation as an act in itself (Art), or in Science, the study of creation. In art, we appreciate the results of an artist’s creation; in Science with appreciate the blue prints and principles of creation itself.

In art, as artists, we are the instigator of the event, the creator; we play the role of a micro-god, existing in the microcosm of our studios or the art world. Essentially, whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re mimicking the macrocosm: our experience of the world, and doing it in a very personal, human way. Always have done. Expressively, with emotion, with a sensitive regard for aesthetics (or not), highlighting beauty or grotesquery’s, abstract or literal. From the Lascaux cave paintings to Emin and Hirst.

Scientists are the students of nature. They aren’t the instigator of the event, in the same way artists are. They study an event: the model of nature, concepts and systems of creation. They dissect, analyse, finalise, create rules, formulas and boundaries and only then, do they choose to instigate an event. Again, their creation mimics natural phenomena, but they aim to mimic it from not from an emotional/subjective/personal perspective as an artist does, but from a collective perspective and abiding by their carefully assembled rules eg. Telephones mimic natural communication and amplification. Computers mimic brains, and so on...

I’ve got so much more to say on this, but I fear this is becoming a bit of a self indulgent thought stream, and besides, I’ve a painting to finish. Ironically, one that’s been carefully planned, boundaries pencilled in, measurements taken, experiments and trials done. There’s art in science and there’s science in art.

Gardeners, chefs, dancers, actors, musicians etc are all artists and scientists. And Leonardo Da Vinci- ‘nuf said.
Eli Seigel sums it up well in his Lecture ‘Educational Method Is Poetic’.
"The relation of art and science is a relation of opposites. The purpose of art
is: from feeling to get to truth. The purpose of science is: from truth to get
to feeling or emotion. But they are about the same thing, with different

We all have compulsions and we all have rules. The two co-exist. Opposites attract. Yes. Like the cat and Paula.