On Saturday the 11th July, CamBRAINiacs came together at St Barnabas Church for our society’s first ever Brain Art Exhibition. This was a reception to showcase the artworks submitted to our neuroart competition ‘Untangling Mind & Brain’, which opened in mid-March.
What a fantastic atmosphere, overflowing with charisma, talent and, of course, Pimm’s. We were fortunate to have such a wonderful collection of paintings, drawings, photographs and digital artworks. Even less conventional forms such as textile art and poetry were present. Given that neuroscientists often use imaging techniques to explore the mind and brain, we were expecting digital artworks to be heavily represented. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to receive various artworks relying on items that are not ordinarily found in the lab – such as a brush, a palette and a canvas. Never underestimate a neuroscientist’s craft outside the workplace!
It was a very rewarding experience to see everyone immersed in deep discussion and appreciation. We had many of the artists present their artwork, explaining the motivations, techniques and messages behind their submissions. I am very grateful to have met such a group of talented, approachable and easy-going individuals – coordinating and setting-up the exhibition would certainly not have been possible without their collaboration!
We organised this event because the arts are definitely not exploited often enough to get everyone excited about neuroscience! When CamBRAIN was founded, I saw the society as the perfect platform to organise this art competition. Being a neuroscientist with a soft spot for the arts, I was thrilled with the idea of putting together an event bridging between the two main aspects of my everyday life. I’ve always escaped to art museums in seek of peace and inspiration, and I find it very comforting to channel unexplained emotions into art (despite not being very talented!). Since the arts help us make sense of our inner and external worlds– why not use them in a similar fashion to make intricate neuroscience concepts and findings digestible? Science, let alone neuroscience, can be daunting. But the arts are a far more stimulating and engaging medium to communicate our research, compared to hopelessly bombarding the public with incomprehensible jargon. And isn’t it mesmerising that our perception of neuroscience-inspired art is determined by what we’re trying to understand in the first place – our own brain, our own mind? In fact, artists have effectively described quite a few important neuroscience discoveries years before neuroscientists! If of interest, I would recommend the book ‘Proust Was A Neuroscientist’, which ends with the following:
‘When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art.’
Overall, it was a pleasant and successful evening. We received lots of positive feedback, but our committee obviously learned a great deal during the process. We are committed to improve and put together an event of a higher calibre next year. We would like to encourage more CamBRAINiacs to get outside their comfort zone and explore the limits of their artistic skills – if you never try, then you will never know. Watch this space and don’t miss our society’s future artistic endeavours!
For more pictures from the event please visit out Facebook page.
Photos generously provided by Kyndylan Nienhuis.
Article written by Jessica Santivanez-Perez.
Meet the competition winners:
In June, a panel of judges, including Suzi Digby (Lady Eatwell) and artist Dr. Bonnie Kemske, came together to select the top 3 submissions. We were very excited to announce the following winners towards the end of the reception.
Chloe Shard for ‘Hands of Fate’
Chloe is a PhD student in molecular neurobiology at the Gurdon institute. She uses the fruit fly development as a model to explore the genes and molecular pathways coordinating neural stem cells and their progeny to build a complex, functional nervous system. She’s deeply passionate about producing artwork that translates her interest in science into a new form. She’s working towards producing a series of genetics- and molecular biology-inspired works that hopefully make neuroscientific concepts more accessible to the general audience.
To find out more about ongoing research in her lab, visit http://www.gurdon.cam.ac.uk/research/brand
Sally Hunter for ‘The Mind’s Eye, concealed by emergent properties; networks in cognition’
To Sally, drawing is a meditation on existence. She’s obsessed by balance, complexity and self-organisation, and this underlies her practice. She prefers to take the time to let things grow, often in surprising directions. In her own words:
‘When I work in science, I feel like a scientist.
When I draw, I feel like an artist.
When I watch TV, I feel like a slob.
Sometimes I feel that I should get out more …’
To find out more about Sally’s current and past projects, visit: http://salhunter.deviantart.com/gallery/
Albert Barque-Duran for ‘Forget (?)’
Albert is a PhD student in Cognitive Science at the Department of Psychology at City University London. His research concerns the application of alternative mathematical methods to modelling human cognition. The other side of him is an artist. He translates scientific concepts into surreal paintings. What do neuroscience and surrealism have in common? His artwork proposes a reinterpretation-actualization of the surrealist movement through the contemporary knowledge about the human mind.
To find out more about Albert’s artistic endeavours, check out the following:
Website – www.albertbarque.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/albertbarqueduran
Instagram – @albertbarque
Tun Jao for ‘The Star Plot’
David Jane for ‘The Dream‘