Exhibitions: Hijacking Natural Systems (on now); Touch and Trace (from August 13), Derby Museum and Art Gallery, until October 30 2011
Science and art often produce spectacular results when combined, but those on the creative side of the fusion are rarely credited with helping their academic friends make important discoveries. Not so Jo Berry, an artist who spent six months helping biomedical scientists at Nottingham University assess a hunger hormone, manipulating images from the investigations back at her Derbyshire studio.
Berry was as interested in the process of gathering evidence as she was in making short films, vinyl drawings and lightboxes from the pictures. The project could prove vital if it allows experts to moderate hunger in obese people and diabetes sufferers.
“It’s about the process of working in a facility where they are doing such important research,” she explains. “Taking that research, its software and imagery to create something cutting edge and entirely different has been incredible.” Berry speeds and slows each film alongside images and three-dimensional views of cells at work. She says it’s about “taking the science and software and approaching it from a different angle” in an idea which has won backing from the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.
“The project is celebrating the human body, the use of new technology and the collaboration between science and art. The hormone we studied is in us all, helping us decide when to eat, so the inspiration behind the work is part of everyone. I really want people who do not usually go to art galleries to come along and enjoy what they see, and see how exciting putting science and art together can be.”
Another local artist, Kate Smith, is equally original. Smith’s interest is summarised as “indicators of human presence”, and the way she treats fleeting glimpses – bits of used fabric, footprints, furrows, marks and residues – pits technology with fine art.
“I’m pretty sure that my lack of knowledge of the software means I am going about it all wrong,” she has confessed. “But I think that’s part of the attraction for me – approaching digital drawing with a traditional mindset.” Any struggles she has faced have failed to hide a real talent. Revisiting and reworking her initial works, Smith’s canvasses are delicate enough to kid everyone into thinking they’re digital prints.