The worlds of Science and Art have a rich pedigree in collaborations that have revealed the complexities of life to new audiences, capturing imaginations and translating forms and concepts into visually powerful artworks and illustrations. Over the past 25 years the digital revolution has helped develop programmes and platforms common to both cultures, and with an increasing awareness of the value of interdisciplinary research, fuelled by organisations such as the Wellcome Trust, artists and designers have been seeking out ways to explore how science can expand and create new contexts for their practice. In recognition of this evolving opportunity the British Science Association has created a new section, Science and the Arts, to encourage dialogue and support new initiatives. The section will build on the experience of members of the London LASER and LENS groups based at the University of the Arts London.

The Science and the Arts Section organised the following events for the 2016 British Science Festival:

Transformations of nature
For centuries artists and scientists have collaborated to examine the living world. From the meticulous drawings of Albrecht Durer to the emergence of photography and microscopy, artists have helped extend the boundaries of knowledge and engage new audiences. Rob Kesseler discussed his work with plant scientists, and the important contribution artisans, illustrators and artists make to contemporary culture.

Cross fertilisation: new landscapes in science and the arts
There is a growing interest in collaborative and interdisciplinary work across science and the arts. Three artists working in different scientific fields discussed the opportunities and benefits that are emerging as the artificial barriers between the two cultures are dismantled. 

President 2016: Professor Rob Kesseler, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London 

Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Professor of Arts, Design & Science. Formerly NESTA Fellow at Kew and Research Fellow at the Gulbenkian Science Institute, Portugal, since 2000 he has collaborated with botanical scientists and molecular biologists in an exploration of the living world at a microscopic level. Reflecting the way in which the natural world migrates into many aspects of our daily lives, his images are translated into a wide range of contexts and media, ceramics, glass and textiles, video, and photography. Employing a variety of imaging processes and styles, from digital photography and scanning electron microscopy to spontaneous ink drawing, he has evolved a sophisticated coordination of hand, eye and intuition. Extending this long and illustrious history of artists working with flowers and plants, Kesseler’s work reveals a hidden world lying beyond the scope of the human eye producing work that lies somewhere between science and symbolism, in which the many complexities of representing plants are concentrated into mesmeric visual images and objects. He exhibits internationally and has published an award winning series of books on Pollen, Seeds and Fruit. In 2010 a monograph of his work, Rob Kesseler Up Close, was published by Papadakis.

 Recorder: Heather Barnett, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London 

Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena, complex systems and biological design, often in collaboration with scientists, artists, participants and organisms. Using diverse media including printmaking, photography, animation, video, installation and participatory experimentation, and working with living materials and imaging technologies, her work explores how we observe, represent and understand the world around us. Current work includes ‘The Physarum Experiments’ - an ongoing ‘collaboration’ with an intelligent slime mould – and a series of collaborative experiments connecting social, biological and technological readings of collective behaviour.

Heather has held Research Fellowships at the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics, and consulted on arts, health and science projects for organisations such as Willis Newson, the Science Museum, and the Wellcome Trust. As Artist in Residence, Heather has worked with diverse organisations including L’Autre Pied Restaurant, Infoterra Remote Sensing Company, and Poole Hospital Pathology Dept. Commissions include the Postgraduate Medical Institute (Anglia Ruskin University), Flow (Guy’s Hospital Cancer Day Unit), Small Worlds (The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University) and The Other Flower Show (Victoria and Albert Museum). She is Course Lecturer on the MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow, and chairs London LASER, a regular talks series exploring art and science.