Mathematical Beauty: the Science & Art of Form

Wednesday 16 January 2013

‘Overflow’, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, 1980. Image reproduced courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.

‘Overflow’, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, 1980. Image reproduced courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.

A new exhibition showcasing contemporary artworks influenced by the pioneering scientist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) will open to the public tomorrow (Thursday January 17, 2013) in the University of St Andrews’ Gateway Galleries. The exhibition is free and will run until March 2, 2013.

D’Arcy Thompson was Professor of Natural History at the University of St Andrews from 1917-1948. A biologist, mathematician and classicist Thompson is renowned for his book, On Growth and Form (1917). It was within this book that he presented his ‘Theory of Transformations’, which shows how the differences between the forms of related species can be represented geometrically. The influence of this understanding on the artistic world continues to the present day.

Naomi Muir, Curatorial Trainee, said:

“This exhibition displays a new side to renowned biologist D’Arcy Thompson – his influence on art. Thompson’s scientific ideas and collections have been inspiring artists for decades and this exhibition is a tribute to that. It presents some of the most recent and major pieces created in reaction to Thompson’s life, work and collections and we are very excited to be showing them in St Andrews.”

Artistic works on display will include cutting-edge digital artist Daniel Brown’s latest installation and pieces by internationally renowned artists Henry Moore, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Will Maclean.

Speaking of the influence D’Arcy Thompson has had on his personal development Will Maclean said:

“In 1960 I attended Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. I had the good fortune to study under the artist Fred Stiven, tutor in design theory. Students were introduced to the visual aspects of Morphogenesis, ( the process by which patterns are formed in plants and animals.) Fibonacci, Corbusier and D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson were central to that study and were a formative part      my art education.”

An exciting programme of lectures and art sessions will take place in the Gateway Galleries and Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History to accompany the exhibition. These will include:

  • A lecture by Roger Wilson, featured artist and Head of Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, on artists and art schools in the wake of Thompson,
  • A talk by Matthew Jarron, Curator of University of Dundee Museum Services, on his experiences of purchasing artworks inspired by Thompson and his collections,
  • And hands-on workshops for families every Saturday at The Gateway.

Mathematical Beauty: the Science & Art of Form is a collaboration between the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St Andrews and University of Dundee Museum Services. Many of the artworks on display were acquired by the University of Dundee Museum Collections as part of a special project funded by the Art Fund’s RENEW scheme, exploring the  artistic influence of D’Arcy Thompson.

Notes to News Editors

Media are invited to attend a preview being held tonight (Wednesday 16 January 2013) at 1730 hours in the Gateway Galleries, North Haugh, St Andrews, KY16 9ST. Featured artists Will Maclean, Roger Wilson and Barbara Cole will be in attendance and available for comment. Those wishing to attend should contact the Press Office on 01334 462 167.

Mathematical Beauty: the Science & Art of Form takes place at the Gateway Galleries, North Haugh, St Andrews from 17 January to 2 March 2013. Opening times are Monday to Friday: 9am-3.45pm, Saturday 12-4pm.

Full programme of supplementary events.

The University of Dundee is hosting two related exhibitions as part of the Art Fund’s RENEW scheme in the Tower Foyer & Lamb Galleries, Dundee.

To find out more, please contact Naomi Muir at [email protected] or 01334 461663.

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