The Hybrid Art Science Networking Association, which is led by Leeds-based artist Paul Digby and Sheffield-based scientist and artist Lizz Tuckerman, enables artists and scientists of all disciplines to meet, and encourages cross-disciplinary interaction. It is supported by Arts Council England, Yorkshire.

The Hybrid Art and Science Exhibition was held in various locations around Sheffield. My drawing was part of a collection of work on display at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery.

The piece selected for the exhibition is called ‘Bacteria Drawing’ and was made in May 2009. The drawing is a collaborative piece and is constructed from 22 drawings which form one large piece. It is about 170 cm in height, approximately150 cm approx wide and spreads about 170 cm along the floor out from the wall.

Bacteria Drawing 2009

The drawing was made in Lisbon in May 2009 and is an outcome of my involvement in an invited residential project with Drawing Spaces at Fábrica Braço de Prata in conjunction with the Gulbenkian Institute of Science.

Over the last ten years my research has been created in the lab or dissection room rather than in the traditional setting of the artists’ studio. As a way to bring the lab into the gallery and to demonstrate the role of drawing, I allowed bacteria to grow on Petri dishes left in the project/gallery space at Fábrica Braço de Prata.

Using a microscope and drawing attachment, I invited members of the public to come and draw the bacteria they saw when looking down the microscope. The bacteria growing was formed from the breath of those who walked in and out of the project/gallery space. The participants were effectively drawing their own breath. Therefore they contributed both to the existence of the object they observed and to the method of revealing their continuous insights and understanding of their encounters with this phenomenon.

Using a drawing attachment on the microscope which allowed them to look down the microscope and see the bacteria whilst simultaneously seeing a projected image of their own hand holding the pencil meant they were effectively ‘tracing’ what they saw directly onto paper. They engaged with something that would normally repel them and through the activity of drawing, they saw the beauty and detail in bacteria. Rather than being concerned with the mechanics of making a drawing, they concentrated on the activity of actually looking, something we all frequently forget to do.

Participant3 Participant11

Joining together all the drawings made, the piece ‘Bacteria Drawing’ grew and developed collaboratively, paralleling the growth of the actual bacteria itself.

This drawing brought about further evidence of how important the activity of drawing is to understanding and dignifying observed subjects. The public saw the beauty of the unfamiliar by drawing. The project showed that drawing is not mere documentation but is about participation. This participation is embodied in the relationships that develop between artist and object and that the object observed is dignified through the respect and understanding gained in the activity of drawing.

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