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Gemma Anderson

19/11/2013 in Art, Artifact, Collaborations, Imperial College, Matematics, Opinion, Science

If you’re looking for inspiration, this week we hear from Royal College of Art alumnus Gemma Anderson who tells us about her experience as Leverhulme Artist in Residence within the maths department at Imperial College London. 

Our artistic collaboration began in 2011, when I found myself reading the article ‘A Periodic Table of Shapes’ in the Imperial College Newsletter. The article described the research of Mathematicians Tom Coates and Alessio Corti, who study geometric forms called Fano Varieties that are “atomic pieces” of mathematical shapes.

I immediately took the article back to my studio and began making drawings, exploring the Fano forms.  This subsequently developed into a full collaboration, first with Coates and Corti and then later also with Dorothy Buck.

Drawing has played an essential role in our project.  During hundreds of conversations about scientific ideas — about string theory, hyperbolic geometries, polyhedra, topology, knot theory, DNA, and many other topics — drawings have formed the bridge that allows interdisciplinary communication.

These drawings are largely informal, notational, and schematic.  They accompany and form an integral part of conversations, with drawing functioning as a non-verbal, intuitive language for scientific concepts.  The precise role of drawing differs from place to place in the conversation: communicating the visualization needed for understanding; sharpening these visualizations; or creating understanding (for the drawer) through the physical act of drawing.

Drawing also plays a different, and deeper, role in our collaboration.  Because the creative processes of the mathematicians involved are heavily visual and drawing-based, I can witness and connect to the process of doing mathematical research; this directly inspires artworks based on the geometries and forms involved. In turn, I respond with unique insights and resonances, the result of my practiced observational drawing practice across the natural world.  The works that we create thus admit multiple overlapping perspectives, holding within them as they do the different logics of the artist and the mathematician.


To find out more about Gemma’s work and see some of her past exhibitions visit her websites below: