The Visual Language of Science (+ Perfection)

500cm x 500cm, Petri Dishes (containing tracing paper, ink and bleach, colour pencil, acrylic sheets with marker) mounted on Canvases and Labels mounted on board

These newer petri dishes are incorporated into a canvas, such that they can blend into the background, are highlighting key features of the canvases and are explained thoroughly like a magnifying glass – for example the butterfly wing canvas has a petri dish containing a tissue paper collage that resembles a frayed part of the wing, along with the skeletal structure of chitin (what butterfly wings are made of) and a small paragraph about the polymer.  (Bonus feature – when light passes through the petri dish the wing within the petri dish appears to be frayed; while when no light passes through it, it looks whole and perfect. This I think reflects the fragile nature of butterfly wings and tissue paper well. Holes are cut onto the board for light to pass through it and the petri dishes.)

The number of petri dishes in each canvas is in relationship to the size of each canvas for a good composition. The rule of thirds can be seen in the proportion of the sizes of the canvases: the butterfly canvas occupies a third of the upper strip, the eye canvas occupies a third of the lower strip, etc. Combined with the petri dishes that form a rectangular ring, the attention of the viewer can circulate around the final piece such that despite the different sizes of the canvases, they could equally about the same quantity of attention.

The beetles are taken inspiration from the Pitts Rivers museum of the Victorian display of beetles, in terms of how they are pinned onto a cork with a handwritten label. Not only does it display an aspect of the visual language of science, the way that the beetles are installed gives the piece another dimension to occupy, ultimately giving it a sense of depth. The aspect of information was further reinforced by the texts within the petri dishes and also the metal label holders at the bottom of the piece, stating the titles of each canvas and the name of the final piece as a whole. I specifically chose this layout of having the name of the final piece in the middle and the canvas titles to the sides to show a sense of hierarchy, that the middle one is more important which is relevant and the sides are the subtitles.

The diversity of media ranging from sodium hypochlorite crystals to eye shadow (for iridescence for the butterfly wing – that was incredible embarrassing for me to borrow my teachers’ and friend’s eyeshadow) used was to reflect the large variety of disciplines in science – such that a specialist from a discipline would not necessarily understand some topics from another discipline. This was further reflected by the use of different languages in text in the petri dishes such that the viewers could experience that barrier of understanding. Despite the knowledge/language barrier, the text is still ultimately doing the same thing of informing the viewer. Moreover this would allow the viewer to have a unique personal experience in viewing the piece depending on his/her scientific knowledge or them being a polyglot or not, in relationship of how a microbiologist might or might not understand the principles of quantum mechanics depending on his/her exposure to it.


Perfection by Guest Artist Zhuo-Ming Shia

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Paint, Mix Media onto Woodcuts

“My interpretation of this year’s theme is centred on the validity of a preconceived perfection in the layout of a city. During my visit to Milton Keynes, the city which my piece examines, I was inspired by the uniformity of the layout of its streets and buildings. Inevitably, I also found the visual flaws that the city tried to hide: the air vents and ventilation systems on the roofs of buildings for example. This piece attempts to reveal the city in its entirety leaving viewers to question the true degree of perfection that the city has achieved. What is your opinion? Please feel free to find the hidden QR codes and scan them using the iPads provided.”

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