The CamBRAIN festive Neuro-Art Competition took place in the hidden gem of Selwyn college – The Diamond room. Just 5 minute-walk away from King’s, it is perfectly distant from the hustle and bustle of the main street. The competition attracted almost 30 performing and visual artists from all over Cambridge and beyond.
Brain science offers a multitude of questions to ponder on and explore through painting, as does the Visual Artist Judge Valeriya N-Georg (http://www.valeriya-n-georg.com). Coming from a fine arts background, Valeriya insightfully integrates medical and scientific concepts in her works through collaborations with professionals working in these fields, as seen in “Grey Matter”, “Astrocyte”, and “Gardens of the Unconscious” among other pieces. The work she decided to share with CamBRAIN was “Deepest Imprints: Perfect Harmony” based on prenatal brain development research by Kitty Hagenbach. Valeriya helped us assess creativity and deeper meanings of the artwork.
To the contrary, Steve Cross, the Performing Artist Judge, has a solid background in science and a PhD degree. Rather than following a typical career path, he has decided to combine his interest in stand-up comedy with science to create Science Showoff (http://www.scienceshowoff.org). He thinks that scientists have a few hidden fun sides to share, and Science Showoff is an inspirational project which aims to both bring a comic relief in a professional work field and engage with lay public. Additionally, it offers an alternative to the status quo of an academic career progression as it demonstrates that there is no limit to what you can do with your degree. Steve was critical of the novelty of concepts and presentation skills.
Lastly, your humble servant (Nataly Martynyuk) had the pleasure to be the Science Judge. Long time before I realised that my hand dexterity longs for a dissection scalpel and forceps, I attended art classes and was foretold a career as a painter. I have no regrets about not pursuing it, even though I continue scribbling in my rare spare time of a PhD candidate. I have done scientific illustrations for research groups in Cambridge and London, as well as completed several murals in a psychiatric ward of Mile End hospital as a part of a volunteering clinical project. The work I presented for CamBRAIN was inspired by my microscopy experience, which reveals “A Universe For My Eyes Only”. My job was to evaluate the relevance of the media to the depicted ideas and ensure scientific accuracy.
The number of astonishing art pieces we were presented with made it extremely difficult to choose winners. The variety of media did not make it any easier, and a few pieces were leading only by a whisker.
The first prize was deservedly taken by David Jane’s (http://david-jane.info) “Self-Portraits”, which have playfully explored MRI scans as a series of prints. While Artist Judges were mesmerised by how David has transformed something as trivial as a piece of scan into creative images and collaged them to make them look nothing like the original, I appreciated the idea of thinking of ‘self’ on the portraits in a neurological way.
The second prize went to Dana Galili and her comedy sketch. She was fun, witty, and truly made the evening brighter. Besides, her stories about fly mating behaviour were somewhat educational, as she pointed out that “there is a lot we can learn from the flies”.
The audience agreed to disagree with the judges and awarded “Bipolar Flight” by Hannah Belcher with the popularity prize.
Heleen, Jessica, Jon and the rest of the CamBRAIN committee have ensured the smooth and timely event organisation with the only regret that Veselina could not join us on the day.
Regardless of who got the prizes, everyone who attended has certainly won.