The following text introduces my MFA documentation completed at Monash University in 2007 on the idea of the metaphorical connections between art and science.




Traditionally science, as a discursive method, has implied a rigorous analytical approach based on the modelling of theories, the testing of experimental support for those theories and an ongoing search for completeness as scientists work toward a deeper understanding of the universe. Paul Davies, in Superforce, writes that “all science is essentially a search for unity. The scientist, by relating different phenomena in a common theory or description, unifies part of our bewilderingly complex world.” [1] Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, speaks of Einstein’s unsuccessful search for such a unified theory  and suggests that the achievement of “a complete, consistent, unified theory is only the first step: our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence.” [2]


Science, when directed at cosmological questions, proposes a rigorous and verifiable technique for the analysis of what were, traditionally, essentially philosophical questions. For Steven Hawking these ultimate questions could be formulated in readily understandable terms when he asked “did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then?” and “what is the nature of time? Will it ever come to an end?” [3]   In dealing with these seemingly intractable problems, the methodology of science would, in principle, allow that comprehensive answers are achievable and verifiable. The framing of these important questions of science and their literary mediation, through authors such as Davies and Hawking, implies a certain grandeur in the endeavour of science. Importantly, for the terms of this project, I have been interested in the mediation provided by such writers who act as a bridge between the technical world of science and a public who is eager to understand the possibilities of the scientific project.


In both practical and conceptual terms, the method and aspirations of this grand discourse of science make it the dominant paradigm of our time. Against this background it is possible  to examine the relationship between art and science. In the field of physics, it would seem improbable that an artistic image alone might solve a theoretical problem of time or the future of the universe. The theories of art are not predictive  in the same way as are those of theoretical physics  and don’t share the same dialectic that is central to the scientific method. However, there is a point at which the two discourses meet. Art and science do share a common heritage in that they are both fundamentally human activities. Both imply  a conceptual world and framework which is firmly  rooted in a human dimension and which is revealed through  a shared history of images.


In my own study, I have been interested in the achievements in the field of visual representation in the sciences since the advent of the photographic technologies. As a result of this shared interaction of scientific theory and the photographic image, the contemporary viewer potentially has a much higher level of scientific and visual literacy than might otherwise be available. In terms of my studio practice, my research has involved the examination of scientific imagery, from a range of sources, along with my readings of scientific texts, which together have been a stimulus in the creation of my artworks.


In Chapter 1, The Nature of the Scientific Image, I examine a work by Daguerre, produced in the nineteenth century, that, in my view, reveals a naturalistic, scientific sensibility. This work is then contrasted with the images of a mid-twentieth-century photographer, Fritz Goro. In developing this chapter, I extend this discussion to include the three-dimensional work of modernist artists such as Joseph Cornell and contemporary artists such as Mark Dion. Some of the ideas that have emerged from this study, which I have attempted to incorporate in my visual work, include the idea of a natural science emanating from the nineteenth century, the fictions of science and the dark side of science as  revealed in the technology of war.


As a significant part of this project will relate to ideas that are primarily related to mathematics, I have assumed that, in discussing science, mathematics will be considered as a subset of science.


While the majority of works I have produced during this period have embraced a photographic component in their production, I have not restricted my interests to this artform. In Chapter 2, The Grid, I have examined the mathematical form of the grid in the work of a  range of modernist artists including Piet Mondrian and Alfred Jensen. In this context, I discuss examples of my own work which are based on gridlike structures. In the subsection entitled, The Electronic Grid, I discuss an extended  definition of the grid  which embraces a wider range of visual forms including the idea of the network. 


In my own work, I have attempted to engage with the hidden potential of science as a metaphor. As a result I have not sought to create work which is overtly illustrative of scientific or mathematical ideas. In my working method, I have created works that are influenced and inspired by scientific ideas, without being demonstrably scientific in their look or presentation. My intention has not been to create objects of science  and my work is not, in general, designed to serve an illustrative function for particular ideas or concepts. The visual work  I have created during this period may be viewed as a particular, personal narrative that was constructed in response to ideas which have all evolved through my readings and interest in scientific matters. The narrative that may exist in these works is primarily related to a series of interconnections  that may be constructed around the images as a record of a set of mental and creative processes.


The works may be interpreted in relation to their source material but, importantly, it is their capacity to provide a framework for the exposition of imaginative networks that I  feel is the central core of what I am seeking in this project.


Seen together, my images represent a sampling of  possibilities  suggested by a study of a range of scientific ideas. All the works I have produced in this context have had their gestation point in a reading of science. The link with this source material may be clearly enunciated or it may be tenuous and, in some cases, the most useful line of work may be seen to arise from tangential  associations. All, however, will operate to evoke the power of scientific metaphors as a resource for the continuing creation of artistic images.

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[1] Paul Davies, Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature,  rev. ed. ,

  Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1995, p. 6.