In Awe of Physics-
Painting in the Basement Lab, Cardiff School of Physic and Astronomy 1st July 2014 and 8th July.
Dr. Dan Read and I’s plan for day 1 (and day 2 the following week) was to set up the Meissner Effect and paint in situ. I brought with me my materials and equipment- Two freshly ground canvases, 3ft by 3ft, shimmering with washes of silver and paynes grey acrylic. A white box of jars and gold, silver, copper, white and prepared mixtures of shimmering dark greys paints, long purple brushes, sketchbook, notebook, one right handed calligraphy pen and one left handed calligraphy, a few pencils and realms of science papers containing information about Magnetic Monopoles and Kagome lattices and papers on Diffusion Tensor imaging all written all or in part by Cardiff University Professors and Doctors.
I had been waiting for this day since I first set eyes upon the Meissner Effect demonstration at the Cardiff Science Festival 2013 by Dan and his team. Dan and I where that day exhibiting opposite each other in the Cardiff Pierhead building. Dan with the physics and I with paintings based on, Diffusion Tensor Imaging of my brain, these are derived from Magnetic Resonance imaging scans conducted at CUBRIC in 2012 by Prof. Derek Jones and Dr. Silvia de Santis. Our love for superconducting magnetic materials certainly resonated with us both.
Dan had just finished setting up ready for the public who would be arriving in 10 minutes at 10am Saturday 20th July 2013. I took the opportunity introduce myself and take a closer look at the strange cloud cascading from a small curious dish on his table. I walked towards him stood, with gleaming smiling eyes as if he held some great secret about this world and I now knelt at his table to be at eye level with what I now know to be is the Meissner and (*a name missing here*) Effect.
It's difficult to express this first moment. At first glance I thought my eyes betrayed me. A small cube dark in matter tinged with frost seemed to be levitating above a small round disk; this was set in a pool of the strange ethereal fluid substance with a cold mist dancing evaporating like lazy smoke flowing off the table descending with gravity. Dan caught my attention with a pair of plastic teasers entering my filed of vision as he genteelly tapped the cube and set it rotating, floating before my eyes on it’s axis.
The effect was rather superbly overwhelming. Dan explained the cube was not ‘levitated’ as such but rather held in a Magnetic Field where by the cube is superconducting when very cold ethereal cascading liquid Nitrogen (77k) cools. Here the cube is in the process- ‘expulsion of magnetic flux’.
Since then Dan and I agreed to plan a few days where by, I will set up my canvases and paint in suit, this incredible and delightful demonstration of physics. The feeling of Awe seizes to be depleted and I am continuously struck by the mesmerising Meissner Effect, I was not the only one.
As soon as the demonstration was set up the basement lab on the 1 st July 2014, Dan’s students; Charlie, Daniel and Cane all starting taking pictures and looking closely at the phenomena. They are as intrigued as I am. It goes to prove that it never seizes to amaze. As I began to paint, conversations bubbled about all manner of super conducting magnetic materials and their properties. We all shared ideas of about all sorts from- vacuums, ‘Stargates’ and future technologies, stories prevailed about my Grandfathers quest to create a Perpetrol motion and the trouble with friction. Cane shared conversations he has had with his, Grandfather, his Dad and brother about ethics of his science. What if something you invented was used to cause good and bad? His brother would ask...
I came to understand these magical people intend to offer the world their ideas, theories and inventions to this world; to be delivered unhindered, peer reviewed, tested and expressed through an infinity variety of applications. That the world will in turn use, alter, enhance and change at will all of their potential outcomes. One thing is clear Magnetism is the future! We all agreed upon that and ‘Magnetic Monopoles’ will probably play a central role.
In the flow of our discussion Cane said hang on a moment ‘I’ll just go and get my levatron’, (this made me smile, its not everyday you here that! My daughter Jasmin aged 10 gives a statement below, about this which best explains it) he bought it in to the lab and I set up the second canvas and quickly began to paint this too as the inspiration poured out. He set up 3 more demonstrations all together. The afternoon continued; liquid nitrogen was topped up again and again with a frilling sense of mischief and awe by Dr. Dan Read and I felt like I was swimming in a dream that mingled and tangled with a tangible future.
‘Magnetic Monopoles’ these words are unlikely companions aren’t they! On the 2 day I focus on the ‘Monster Machine’! It stands in off centre in the lab, almost finished looking grand and beautiful nearly touching the ceiling. Dan and his students have been working on this since last summer.
I remember seeing it when I came for a quick visit last September. Now it is twice the size, and its beauty grows. Charlie explained- It will be use to evaporate premollys (magnetic materials) that will rise up inside to be assimilated on the lithographed Silicon (and eventually Graphene) membranes created using the electron photon laser. A Kagome lattice, that looks like a honeycomb is lithographed and the evaporated premollys settle into place and cooled from above and heated to extremes from below. Observation is possible through a channel looking into the vacuum. I find the whole beast in enchanting, I image the path of the evaporating premollys dancing up inside to be quenched in disorder, examined with the results recorded by Charlie.
I am creating three art works on canvas that express the observed, imagined and assimilated. These will be exhibit at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay between 10-4 Saturday 19th & 20th July 2014 along with DTi Artwork of my Brain and Dr. Dan Read with his students showing the demonstration for all to see. To read more, see images of the lab, studio and progression of artwork go to www.massivedynamicart.com
Statements: My daughter, Jasmin Gale and Richrad Higlett of Cardiff Contemporary Art Festival 2014.
My mum Penelope Rose is doing some painting on science and I went to see them but I got distracted by a spining top floating in mid air and I figured it out. I'll tell you when you put a spinning top down it just falls over but if you spin it, it stays up right. The spinning top has a magnet south facing up and a big platform with a magnet north facing up so the two magnets repel themselves so it floats. There was so much stuff it was so cool and I am not the sort of person to be impressed easily but it was so AMAZING!
Jasmin Rose Gales aged 10 daughter of Penelope Rose Cowley, describes her experiences of visiting the Dr. Dan Read's Basement Lab on the 1st July 2014 at Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy
Artists and Scientists are different elements. The artists offer or makes questions....the scientists generate answers. Each sees the 'object' differently, a table stands in between as the buffer and the object, a glass perhaps is placed on top, the two elements face each other, observing the glass from different perspectives.
Penelope is awe struck by the experiments and chooses to paint the demonstrations in the basement lab in situ. One may ask why paint the phenomenon’s when they could be documented through photography or video?
Painting is the longest way to drag out the moment and perhaps the only way to fully appreciate the wonder.
Richard Higlett - Conversations at BayArt with Penelope Rose Cowley, Cardiff Bay,10th July 2014