Science and art are often juxtaposed as rational versus intuitive, or concrete versus abstract, but they can also be seen as complementary elements that encourage the exploration of ideas in any way, shape or form.
In fact, the two permeate each other in countless ways.
As part of this year’s National Science Week, a number of events are being held in Melbourne that seek to present the public with ways of looking at science through the lens of art, providing an altogether different opportunity to engage with Australian scientists and their work.
Art of Science
Finalists from this year’s Art of Science awards run by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research are being showcased at Federation Square in Melbourne as part of National Science Week.
The annual competition, which has been running since 1997, is for researchers from the Institute to submit beautiful images captured or created as part of their biomedical research.
Dr Leigh Coultas, who is one of the joint winners of this year’s award, tells SBS Science that the exhibit presents an “exciting” opportunity for the public to experience the intricate research being done in the lab.
“People seeing how exciting and interesting science really is, I think, the real value behind this exhibit and the reason why I’m so excited to do it every year,” he says.
Dr Coultas explains that imaging techniques are crucial tools in his research – his research group looks at the molecular regulation of blood vessel growth and development, and how impaired blood vessel growth can lead to cancer and macular degeneration.
“For us, it’s absolutely essential and all of our research is based on imaging,” he says. “If you just look down a microscope at a piece of tissue, you’re not going to see blood vessels very clearly.”
Dr Coultas’ award-winning image, Electric Daisy, shows the delicate blood vessels of the small intestine of a mouse, in striking red and blue neon lights.
“I’m just constantly stunned and amazed by what’s naturally existing within us and what we can find just by going and looking,” says Dr Coultas.
The free Art of Science exhibit is being held at Federation Square’s Atrium in Melbourne until August 21.
The Australian Grains Genebank – An Artistic Response
Agriculture Victoria’s Biosciences Research is hosting The Australian Grains Genebank – An Artistic Response exhibition specifically for this year’s National Science Week.
The exhibition is being held at AgriBio, the Centre for AgriBioscience at La Trobe University in Bundoora and it showcases works by artists Dave Jones and Steven Rhall.
“For an audience encountering the space, it’s largely photographic works… and [Dave’s] got photographs that are the result of long shutter speeds and using light and animation,” Rhall tells SBS Science.
The artists were commissioned in 2015 to create artwork in the form of photography, light extrusions and soundscapes around themes relevant to the Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) in Horsham.
The AGG officially opened in March 2014 and was built to conserve the seeds of Australian crop wild species for research and plant breeding purposes.
Mr Rhall explains how unique access to the AGG’s archives and the work he produced gave him an appreciation of the relationship between art and science, and how scientists present their work.
“I think there’s sometimes a schism between art and science, where science is a very exacting practice – it’s based on certainty, it’s based on empirical evidence,” he says.
“[Art] is about ideas that are much more wooly, about abstract ideas, about innumerable ways of presentation, exploring and representation of ideas.
“Two different scientists will depict things in their own unique way, that there’s some subjectivity that comes through in that.”
The free exhibition is being held until September 9.
SCINEMA International Science Film Festival
Science art doesn’t have to be static, though.
The visual representation of art in television and cinema is yet another special way for audiences to interact with the ideas and theories that permeate science.
With that in mind, the National Wool Museum is screening the ‘Best of SCINEMA: International Science Film Festival 2016’.
These screenings cover topics like the human body, astronomy and nature across various science films, animations and documentaries.
An example of what you can expect from SCINEMA is Polish poet and botanist Urszula Zajackowska’s award-winning work Metamorphosis of Plants, a timelapse video that took her two years of filming to complete.
The free screenings will be held between 12.30pm and 3.00pm until August 21 at the National Wool Museum in Geelong.