The Art of Science

‘The Art of Science’ explores the work of 40 artists and artist–scientists, from different cultures and eras, uncovering how these innovators have designed futuristic technology centuries ahead of its time, investigated time and space through abstract art, and created sculpture informed by Nasa technology.

‘The Art of Science’ explores topics such as: Climate breakdown and conservation ; Deep space and cosmic archaeology ; How media is used to communicate ideas relating to science ; Exploring being human alongside biotechnology ; and AI and Neural Networks.


Artists and Artworks Inspired by Science

Authors: Heather Barnett, Richard J Bright, Sheena Calvert, Nathan Cohen and Adrian Holme

“Now, in the twenty-first century, transdisciplinary reconnections of art and science are providing fertile ground for the making of interesting, relevant and challenging art, while also highlighting the potential of art to provide that cautionary, critical and reflective space in which urgent questions about the practice, ethics and direction of science and technology may be raised and considered.

The Art of Science explores these relationships between science and art through the work of 40 artists, or groups of artists, spanning 10 centuries from the Song Dynasty in China (c. tenth century) and the Renaissance in Europe (c. fifteenth century) to the present day. The artistic practices presented share common bonds of human curiosity, craft and conceptualization, in trying to understand ourselves and our place in the world, conceiving both the arts and sciences as open and systematic inquiries into the deep structure of human experience. Through diverse means – including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, new media, computation, performance and participation – the creative endeavour offers insights and expressions across scales: from molecular mechanisms, through subjective experience, to the vast intangibles of the universe, all brought to a human scale and to human sensibility through art. Throughout history there have been many points of convergence, where the questions probed in scientific endeavour reverberate in the activity of artists: whether the advent of electricity, new paradigms in the laws of physics, or the implications of biotechnological futures. The Art of Science does not attempt to give a definitive chronological history of the interrelations between art and science, but the various subjects of enquiry are grouped around five broad themes. The location of artists is intended to guide an exploration of their work from a particular perspective, although in many cases there are obvious synergies with ideas explored in other sections.

Alchemy & Cosmos explores the work of artists concerned with perception and interaction with light, the relationship between macrocosmic and microcosmic space, and experiencing science and technology through the lens of art. The artists in this section invite us to view the world and our relationship to it in a different way, to visualize and imagine new worlds.

Being Human considers the ways in which artists place the human body at the centre of their work, and interrogate, extend and explore the internal and external limits of the body, as well as the body as a site of consciousness. In doing so they point our attention towards the body as an “interface” between scientific, corporeal (bodily), and sensual forms of knowledge.

Ecology & Environment spans four centuries of artistic practice that closely observes the environment and engages directly with its inherent ecologies. Through diverse methods of representation, intervention and transformation these artists challenge our perceptions of, and relationships with, the natural world.

Machines & Systems covers a spectrum of investigation and experimentation by artists concerning the mechanics and ordering of space, form and media. The artists in this section invent and employ a range of systems, devices and mechanisms to question underlying principles and challenge our relationship with technology.

Nature & Beyond explores the ways in which artists have understood, investigated and represented nature over the past millennium. The section considers the changing perceptions of our relationship to the natural world over time, culminating in works that challenge the concept of nature itself.

The Art of Science navigates an improbably vast terrain – of history, geography and artistry – inviting the reader into a glimpse of extraordinary works, in which science, poetics and sensual experience mutually support the quest for greater understanding of what it means to be human, and of our place in the world.”

Excerpts from the Introduction to The Art of Science (written by Heather Barnett, Richard J Bright, Sheena Calvert, Nathan Cohen and Adrian Holme, 2021)

The Art of Science is published by Welbeck Publishing Group

27th May 2021 | £30 | Hardback


About the Authors:

Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena and imaging technologies. She is Pathway Leader on MA Art and Science at University of the Arts London (UAL).

Richard J Bright is an artist, writer, Director of The Interalia Centre and editor of Interalia, an online magazine dedicated to the interactions between the arts, sciences and consciousness.

Sheena Calvert is an artist, designer, writer and philosopher. She is Lecturer on MA Art and Science at UAL. Her written and creative work engages with politics, ethics, and emergent technologies of language.

Nathan Cohen is an artist, educator, researcher and writer, engaged in art and science projects internationally. He is the founder and Course Leader of MA Art and Science at UAL.

Adrian Holme is an artist, educator, writer, editor and researcher, with a background in biology, art and information science. He is Lecturer on MA Art and Science and BA Illustration at UAL


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