watercolour and pencil on paper, 2022+2023
46x61cm, 31x41cm, 18x26cm (paper)
A single amino acid, a dot ( . ), becomes a chain of amino acids – a protein, a line (——), moves in space to become a plane, then a volume. Like in drawing, a dot progresses to a line, to meander in space. So it seems that drawing might be an appropriate way to experiment, to ‘be like’ the protein.
‘Organic development in a work of art is at least analogous to, and probably identical with, organic development in nature; in an organic-artistic scheme the essence of art is in processes rather than its products; and such artistic ‘events’ as are thrown up are significant merely in that they reflect past, present and future aspects of the dominant process’. (Thistlewood, 1981)
Cell division, also called mitosis, occurs in all living things and is a fundamental process for life. During mitosis, a cell duplicates all of its contents, including its chromosomes, and splits to form two identical daughter cells. Mitosis is facilitated by dynamic protein polymers, filaments termed microtubules, which coalesce into a complex structure – the mitotic spindle. The spindle exerts physical force upon duplicated chromosomes, ultimately facilitating their faithful segregation into two equal complements. This is usually followed by cytokinesis – the physical cleavage of the cell into two, through the constriction of the cell membrane.
Here, we have moved away from the textbook images of cell division that show artificial gaps between phases of activity, to an integrated image of the whole at once. We sit together, artist and scientist, drawing stages – sub-processes within the whole – and asking questions “is it like this?”. Then we take a wider view, aiming to connect the stages. At this point we move outside of traditional structure-function relationships, and we might think of the process as a dance, a musical score, or a changing array of energy. We create a four-dimensional template in which to draw, and this provides a framework in which to represent the relationships that are at play in the process we aim to represent. We imagine cell division like a polyphony, and carefully draw the energy landscapes, the rhythmic organisations, the tunes. The feeling for the process takes centre stage as we revise, redraw and reform, synthesizing our drawings first in pencil and then, later, into colour ). We ask other scientists to ‘read’ the image and they tell us they see cell division. ‘Mitosis Score’ is a new image of cell division, all stages connected in one image, and it reminds us of other organic life forms.
These new images raise their own questions – what is happening in the negative space mid-way through? Can these be answered with traditional science, or with something more holistic? And so we can continue, with untested hypotheses formed through and of drawing, to experiment further in art and science.
‘Growing Una and Cosmo’ depicts the breastfeeding pattern of our baby twins in the first month of their terrestrial life. It is composed of a series of twin circles on either side of a logarithmic spiral (also known as a growth spiral). The image was drawn from information about breastfeeding that I collected, in a series of notebooks since the babies’ birth. Although I had a sense of the ‘pattern’ of the breastfeeding, I wanted to make the pattern visible. The resulting image is an abstract representation of breastfeeding. Making the image involved patient care and attention, not so different to the kind required in mothering.
This series of drawings were made in collaboration with a mathematician (Dr.Berta Verd, Uuniversity of Oxford), and a biologist (Dr. Johannes Jaeger) at the KLI, Vienna. The drawings explore the potential of drawing for understanding biological process. Read our article ‘Drawing to Extend Waddington’s Epigenetic Landscape’ here
A short note on the ‘Isomorphogenesis’ series (2014):
‘Isomorphogenesis’, is a drawing based algorithm that experiments with analogue simulations of theoretical morphology and also explores the potentialities of representing morphology as a dynamic and formative process. Isomorphogenesis builds on the Isomorphology method as it progresses from the empirical study of the morphology of static museum specimens towards a conceptual study which aims to draw morphology as dynamic.
Isomorphogenesis brings together my experience of working with practitioners in theoretical and empirical branches of science (mainly at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College) in that it unites the observational and the abstract – experiment and theory – through drawing. As such Isomorphogenesis samples aspects from the work of others and employs theory in the service of practice.
Historical and contemporary concepts from the fields of natural science, mathematics, philosophy and art which investigate and interpret morphological development, have informed Isomorphogenesis. For example, D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form (1917), which famously combined biological and mathematical concepts through a work of scientific prose and influenced artistic representations of dynamic form.
Isomorphology (Anderson, 2013) is a comparative, drawing based method of enquiry into the shared forms of animal, mineral and vegetable morphologies. As a holistic and visual approach to classification, Isomorphology runs parallel to scientific practice while belonging to the domain of artistic creation. It is complementary to science: addressing relationships that are left out of the scientific classification of animal, vegetable and mineral morphologies. More information about the following series of copper etchings can be found here www.isomorphology.com
Since 2011 I have been collaborating with geometers Professor Alessio Corti and Dr Tom Coates at the Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London.
Mathematicians work with images and forms, although many of these forms are hidden: either because they do not exist in the physical world or because of their physical scale. Coates and Corti are involved in an ambitious project to classify Fano varieties, which are mathematical geometries that form basic building blocks for other mathematical shapes; one can think of this as constructing a Periodic Table of shapes, analogous to Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of chemical elements.
More info here
‘Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists’ (2009-2010, Wellcome Trust Arts Award)
Described as ‘unique in Art History as the first series of portraits to mix psychiatrists and psychiatric patients indiscriminately in one collection’ (Jordanova, Schupbach 2010). The series of 16 life size etchings and accompanying publication has toured the UK and is currently held in the collections of the Wellcome Trust and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This collaboration between Anderson and Forensic Psychiatrist Dr.Tim McInerny (Bethlem Royal Hospital), enabled the artist to enter each individual’s environment; The Bethlem Royal Hospital, The Maudsley, London Health centres and schools, and even individuals homes. In this series of fourteen life-size etched portraits, the individual is identified, not by name and occupation, but visually, by their biographies and internal personal lives. Public and private self are united through Andersons curiosity and compassion; as her probing of inner worlds, as bizarre and entangled for the practitioners as the patients, links all the portraits together. The etchings explore medical ‘phenomena’ such as neuroses, phobias, traumas, disability, disease and injury. These portraits are ‘medical’ in a special and profound sense that notions of medicalization cannot capture.
This project toured the UK and has been exhibited at the Freud Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum where it is now in their permanent collections.