Thursday, June 05, 2008

Patterns crystallise in new exhibition at Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Collection has a super little exhibition on how crystallography has influenced art and design. Built around the work of the 'Festival Pattern Group', the exhibition features design products for the 1951 Festival of Britain that were inspired by the kaleidoscope-like diffraction patterns of X-ray crystallography.

My visit fortuitously coincided with a very interesting talk by Bonnie Ann Wallace, professor of Molecular Biophysics at Birkbeck, who explained why crystallography lends itself so well to artistic interpretation. Professor Wallace had brought along some props from her lab which helped to demonstrate trends in crystallography -- how it has moved from drawing and 3D modelling to computer imaging.

The objects on display range from wallpaper inspired by the crystalline structure of insulin to carpet designs and crockery. Intriguing is a beautiful evening gown worn by the wife of crystallography pioneer, Sir Lawrence Bragg. It is embroidered with the hexagonal patterns of Beryl minerals.

'From Atoms to Patterns' runs at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road, London, until 10 August 2008. If you can't make it in person, the exhibition website is packed with information.

1 comment:

Ghost Writer said...

I finally managed to see this at the weekend and enjoyed it. It's a lovely exhibition and fits well with a resurgent interest in mid-centruy British culture. From my limited knowledge of the Festival Pattern Group, I don't think it was actually a collaboration between artists and scientists (I might be wrong). As teh catalogue points out, artists at the ICA (especially Richard Hamilton) were working with similar ideas but the results were somewhat different. The exhibition 'On Growth and Form' took place the same year as Festival of Britain. It would be interesting to see if there are any connections between artists wokring in textiles around that time (Eduardo Paolozzi for example) and this group. I feel a research project coming on...