Meeting Sir David Attenborough….
It has taken me or a week or so, to really absorb the events that happened last week on the 17th April for the reopening ceremony of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building (KLB) at UCL Photography by Anita Maguire
I was invited to attend the morning ceremony and asked to talk to guests and to Sir David Attenborough about the artsci-work ‘COSMOPARTICLE’ when they were on a grand tour of the building. I had been commissioned for the artsci-work by the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative for the beautifully transformed KLB building in early 2017. The building is home to UCL Earth Sciences and groups from Chemistry, Astrophysics, and Mathematics.
Early Morning April 17th 2018-
The journey began with the 5.55am train from Cardiff Central to Euston Square travelling 1st Class (a first for me, due to no other available tickets). The coach was mainly full of men in smart suits and two well dress women crouched in the area just outside the toilets (equality?). Everyone on phones or laptops, and me dressed in a fuchsia pink coat from M&S, a dress from Boutique 53 ltd from the Smashed Lemon Spring/Summer 2018 collection, pink sandals from Xti Tentations and a white bag from Fiorelle.
Photographer Phillipa Irving- Such fun! Posing for a pic the day before, thanks Pip! x
All in all, I felt I was in high contrast to the grey, navy and charcoal of the coach. A glow with pinks, purples and white with fuchsia pink nails to match. Ready to attend a very special event at UCL.
I arrived at Paddington Station a little after 8.30am and caught the underground to Euston Square. Hot and cramped passengers swayed together on the very busy tube. An elderly gentleman, shaking with nerves was attempting get through the carriage to leave, the doors were closing quickly everyone took note and someone called out to hold the door. Three people jumped in to action and held with some effort, the half closing doors and the man was able to safely get off. One the guys who held the door open, was standing next to me had oil and grease all over his hand. My contribution was a handwipe that cleaned it right off, much to the guy’s relief. It was really lovely to see everyone immediately working together and feeling that London has a sense of the kindness, the vibe after was sweet and set the tone for the day.
I ended up at Euston Road instead of Euston Square. Which was a short walk from where I was meeting Anita Maguire at the George Farha café in the Lewis Building (which is next to Euston Square Station where I thought I was heading). Anita is Executive Assistant to Professor of Astrophysics, Hiranya Peiris. It was, Peiris who had initially contacted me after seeing ‘Infinite LIGO Dreams’. Anita and I grabbed some coffee and made away across the road to theCruciform building.
We had been informed there would be ques for the event and we found ourselves at the door to a corridor that led to the theatre entrance, at the end of the rather long que, everyone buzzing with excitement.
After a few moments we flowed in and took our seats, myself and Anita placed ourselves one row back and to the right and awaited the arrival of all the guests and the much-anticipated Sir David Attenborough.
Photographer Kirsten Holst www.kirstenholst.com
The hubbub and babel of the theatre came to a murmur as Sir David Attenborough and guests including the Son and Grandson of much celebrated Dame Kathleen Lonsdale entered the room. Perfectly hosted by Professor Lars Stixrude (Head of UCL Earth Sciences) and Professor Ivan Parkin (Dean of UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences) who introduced us all to the morning ceremony’s programme and our reason for gathering to celebrate the new building fabulously redesigned by Levitt Bernstien and built by John Graham Construction for the re-opening by the esteemed Sir David Attenborough who was waiting in the wings ready to join Professor Lucie Green.
An arm-chair style discussion followed with Sir David Attenborough facilitated by the lovely Professor Lucie Green from UCL Space & Climate Physics. Sir David was energetic and at same time relaxed, quick witted and funny, answering questions posed by about his career and his connection to Dame Kathleen Lonsdale.
Photographer Kirsten Holst www.kirstenholst.com
It was fascinating to hear him recounting many moments from his first love of fossils through to his career with the BBC and how he come to be presenting programmes, whereby for the many, he and the film crews were filming animals never before seen on the screen. Also, his encounters with Kathleen Lonsdale many years ago. I was poised on the edge of my sit completely engrossed in this wonderful man and the thoughts he was sharing with us.
The whole audience was extremely engaged with what Sir David had to say and asked thought provoking-questions on a range of topics such as; the sustainability of the meat industry, or what is his favourite era, which I think is Jurassic (or may not have actually said, but implied this, because of his experiences on the south coast of Britain) and the field of Palaeontology, the optimism he has for the future of earth and so much more. He made a point of encouraging us to remember the film crews and scientists who have worked to produce the programmes over the years.
In regards to Palaeontology, from my own recollection Sir David continued on to say, that hitting a rock with a geological hammer so that it splits to reveal a fossil that hasn’t seen the light of day for hundreds of millions of years is hugely romantic. You realise that it’s you, only you, who is first to set eyes upon the specimen since it laid down to its final resting place all those many years ago. Each rock holding its own mystery. This is an exciting moment and I thought to myself that I cannot wait to get back to Lavernock, off the coast south Wales and start digging to perhaps find my own Theropods just like the brothers, Nick and Rob Hanigan did back in 2016 or a fossil in a rock.
I would be very happy to find an Ammonite again like my husband and I found a few years ago but that was worn on the surface of a rock. I’d like one from the smashing of rocks so that my eyes are fresh upon it for the first time in 201 million years from the Jurassic period or there about. Sir David Attenborough has reminded me of that sense of discovery from being curious enough to do so and how exciting it is.
During the talk, Sir David was presented with a porcelain sculpture of the plankton created exclusively by University of Southampton researcher by Dr Samantha Gibbs, of the newly discovered species of ocean plankton named Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, in honour of the BBC’s Blue Planet series.
He accepted the sculpture, stood up and held it up in one hand, high in from of us all and I recall he said ‘and here in lies a great mystery’, it was a beautiful moment. He continued to explain that It is the depth and breadth at which all life is interconnected that precedes this ‘great mystery’. From the tiny plankton we may as well say all life on earth depends and therein lies its great importance of study. Words to remember and ponder!
Photographer Kirsten Holst www.kirstenholst.com
There is one question that for me stood out and the answer to which has enriched my sense of wellbeing and optimism for the future, I feel I am not alone in this sentiment as I heard it again talked about in the afternoons events.
The question was something along the lines of- ‘What are your thoughts for the future of the Earth and everything that lives on it?’
It felt as if there was a hesitance in the voice of the audience member, perhaps a little anxiety too, I believe we all felt that feeling a little, we all know how much we humans have messed up Earth and the problems we have caused as a species. Sir David Attenborough replied with sincerity and compassion (from my recollection it was along the lines of);
-Had you asked me 10 years ago I would have had a very different answer to the one I am telling you now. I would have been more sceptical. But now I have seen a change; When Australians noticed the hole in the ozone over their heads, a change commenced and since 1996 CFC’s have been banned. When whales diminished to the point of extinction, commercial whaling was banned in 1987. When I first started presenting, the oceans did not have many whales left, but now I see massive shoals, it is a change I have seen in my lifetime. Now we have plastics and the burning of fossil fuels to deal with, it is heart-breaking, however with; innovation, research, science and technology along with our ability to be curious, connect and communicate on a worldwide instantaneous level I feel that change again will happen. We are at a tipping point and the world of humans is now able to begin correcting the mistakes it has made. –
If you were there you would have felt a sense of urgency and relief, the feeling that all is not lost and everyone individually and as a civilisation is capable of change. Sir David really does fill one with real hope.
For example, with regards to plastics; It is s a problem that caught the imagination of a Boyan Slat when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy from the Netherlands. I highly recommend finding out all about him.
Photographer Kirsten Holst www.kirstenholst.com
Here is a link to a video, he is 23 now (and adorable) what he has done is incredible #plasticfree- It just goes to show if you have innovation and passion each individual is capable of change.
Every little (and big) helps; go now to a bar and you will now see paper straws (hopefully recycled) on the counters. If not, customers will frown upon the plastic straw with the stomach churning images of the hippocampus (sea horse) clinging to the plastic straw or the young whale dyeing alongside her grieving mother from the programmes Sir David Attenborough presented. The awful feeling is enough for all of us to make the changes. And I suggest let’s also praise it where we see it to social media- Here you can see Ryan celebrating their new straws....
As an artsci creator I do not generally use a lot of plastic but I do used a lot of paper for sketching ideas and making notes and so I ask myself- how can I save using all the paper I get through and the space it fills up? I find the idea difficult to move away from it. I love drawing on paper and love the feel of it and I know it would be better to save it for original artworks rather than piling up tons of sketches that will hardly see the light of day.
Technology is providing solutions; Remarkable is a paper like tablet, it is a clever product, that I am eager to acquire for my business, I have a feeling it will become an invaluable tool. It is time for me to start saving and make the investment. It is changes like these, individually on a specific and unique scale, that the new norm becomes apparent.
I wonder what it is you will invest in or change to go #paperfree and #plasticfree? Please comment below or tweet me @peneloperose27 I would love to hear your stories of #goingplasticfree #goingpaperfree
The morning ceremony came to end, the audience applauded for a long time before settling down and calmly making their way to lunch. The afternoon followed with three tours of all the special guests.
I had to be ready by 2.30pm to give my first talk in the Cosmoparticle Hub in front of the artsci-work, I was really frilled to be asked, I absolutely love having the chance to discuss the science that goes into the work and how it has come together, I was nervous too, I wanted to get it right for Hiranya Peiris, Andrew Pontzen and Chamkuar Ghag who had provided me with all the data. Here is a video showing, visually the development of the COSMOPARTICLE over a 5 months.
In the moments before the tours began I met Linda Cremonesi, Christian Pedersen, Martin Rey and Luisa Lucie-Smith researchers at of the ‘Cosmoparticle Initiative’ whereby they were setting up equipment and displays for the demonstration they would be giving. I was very excited to see that Linda and Chris where setting up cloud chambers to detect secondary particles from Cosmic Rays most of which would be muons. It just so happens that I am the art lead for a Masterclass Saturday Club for @Firstcampus this weekend. The timing to acquire some extra knowledge and see the particle trails for myself (after training my eyes to see them, as explained by Linda) was perfect. Here is a image I took then were setting up.
Here they are photographed by the professional photographer Kirsten Holst when the tour began....
And here I am explaining theCOSMOPARTICLE to Sir David Attenborough.
Sir David Attenborough is pointing at the Xenon atom and asking what it was…
(click here to find out (go on, #becurious ; ) )
I explained as best I could, with a little help from the Dean Professor Ivan Parkin and encouraging looks from Hiranya and Andrew. Here is a photo by Anita Maguire of the Hiranya, Andrew and I all together->
It occurred to me that Sir David may well have been pointing it out the atom because in many ways it looks organic, frogs spawn came to mind, at the time.
However, in hindsight, Sir David may have thought it looked a little like Blue Planet plankton created by Dr Samantha Gibbs. I should have asked him.
Both Sir David Attenborough and the Son of Kathleen Lonsdale, Stephen Lonsdale said that ‘you can keep looking and looking into the painting and see more and more in it’. I believe that’s a good description and I am pleased I had the opportunity to discuss all the elements within it.
I was in awe, the memory, a fuzz of excitement and before I knew it the tour was moving on, I had forgotten to give the letter from my daughter and gift I had for him. I quickly grabbed the gift and passed it to Sir David. He shook my hand again and thanked me for it and I managed to say, ‘you’re an inspiration, it’s been an honour to meet you’ words I am sure he hears many times every day.
To read more about the COSMOPARTICLE and the Initiative go to the UCL article ‘Making sense of the Universe through art and physics’ or (click the artsci-work above) written by Zoe Cormier, an author and science writer based in London.
So that was the day I met Sir David Attenborough! What a memory, it has been fun recalling the day for this News blog I hope you have enjoyed reading it (especially thus far, well done! It is long!)
I will be back soon with news about COSMIC RAY, NEW SIGNALS and other projects happening right now.
For now, all the best, please feel free to post comments below about -if you had the honour- to meet Sir David Attenborough and also about how you are #goingplasticfree and/or #goingpaperfree.
Many thanks go to Anita Maguire for looking after me all day, Andrew and Hiranya for inviting me along and to Linda, Chris, Luísa, and Martin for sharing their knowledge and the brilliant conversations we had when some of us unwound at ‘Resting Hare’.
Penelope Rose Cowley
Signed Limited Edition Prints and Art posters are available here.
Hahnemuhle German Etching 310gms
Signed Limited Edition of 75
Paper size 26" by 28"
Image Size approx 22" by 24"
Cosmoparticle was commissioned by Hiranya Peiris for University College London's (UCL) new Cosmoparticle Hub, where it is on permanent display. The original of this work is 200cm x 180cm, Oil on Canvas, It is a painting that incorporates dark matter, cosmic microwave background, galaxies and so much more see the development video here
Fotospeed Smooth Pearl 290gsm
Paper size 26" by 28"
Image Size approx 22" by 24"
Cosmoparticle was commissioned by Hiranya Peiris for University College London's (UCL) new Cosmoparticle Hub, where it is on permanent display. The original of this work is 200cm x 180cm, Oil on Canvas, It is a painting that incorporates dark matter, cosmic microwave background, galaxies and so much more read more on the see the development video here
Film by Tom Forsey of the re-opening of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building by Sir David Attenborough
Tom Forsey an Earth Sciences student at UCL who is also a very talented filmmaker, put together this fantastic video of the reopening. I will be writting the full experince of the day in due course- for now enjoy this brilliant film (btw there is short clip of me explaining the COSMOPARTICLE to him. That was an absolute honour!).
For more articles articles visit:
For information about the COSMOPARTICLE painting go to:
This week I will be attending the much anticipated reopening of
The Kathleen Lonsdale Building (KLB) ceremony, transforming UCL, with a highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly modern conversion.
The reopening will be by the prestigious, wonderful Sir David Attenborough. A perfect choice for a building full of history and cutting edge research for the future. I'm sure Attenborough's passion for earth sciences will be in abundance and that too for the research from Chemistry to Cosmology. We may well experience profound insights into the emmence scope of potential this new multi layered hub of facilities will present to us in years to come.
The refurbishment will improve the teaching, research and social learning spaces for the Chemistry (including Radio Chemistry & Computational Chemistry), Earth Sciences, Physics and AstroPhysics departments, the Faculty Office and the data centre. A number of specialist laboratories will be re-provided with significantly upgraded facilities, for more information see the full UCL article:
One of the new hubs is for the 'Cosmoparticle initiative' and last year I had a phone call requesting a commission for the new space. The lady on the phone was Hiranya Peiris from UCL.
Peiris had seen 'Infinite LIGO Dreams' a post about the painting via Facebook. I had been commissioned to create 'Infinite LIGO Dreams' by Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy completed 6 months previously in the summer of 2016. The art work celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves signal detected by LIGO together with the many teams of which, Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy was a part of.
Peiris enquired if I would be able to create an artwork combining different fields in regards to comprehending the universe. I was captivated immediately. The request was to combine research data regarding, in summary, the Cosmic Microwave Background, Dark Matter, Particle Physics, the evolution from the Big Bang to now and everything else in between.
I have to admit I love it when at the moment of knowledge, the mind boggles and I feel discombobulated at such a fantastic set of parameters for a brief which is in part is a pre-supposition for the discovery of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles WIMPS yet to come by the Large Underground Xenon experiment LUX.
As an Artsci Creator I am transformed into the actualisation of the information being presented by the collaborators; Hiranya Peiris, Andrew Pontzen and Ghag Chamkaur. Words become visualisation and emotions; the complex evolution of the universe and all its diversity giving way to new insights through prisms of simplicity offered by the physicists. It is as if drapes of calico veils have been lifted before the shadows, allowing rays light to beam into new perspectives.
For 5 months I immersed by myself into the meaning behind the research; the way I felt meditating upon an accelerating exspanding universe, is exhilarating, in which I exist central to the now, larger than yesterday and smaller than tomorrow, relative in locality to all around, it does indeed, befuddle me. The arrow of time, piercing my awed mind.
Here is a video recording the experience creating 'COSMOPARTICLE' interlaced with visual data provided by the collaborators.
Art is a brilliant tool to express that which is awesome in our comprehension of the nature of existance.
My experiences of the process creating these works is an absolute indulgence, I love it, especially being immersed in 'matter', in this case oil paints, brush and canvas for the brief requested. I feel as if I am a strange cathode for such a curious enquiry. My cognition is a quanta of comprehension in comparison to the exquisite minds that look upon the COSMOPARTICLE and I am humbled deeply by the physicists and astronomical research taking place.
A tour will take place at somepoint and I will be standing by the COSMOPARTICLE
painting in the Cosmoparticle Hub ready to meet Sir David Attenborough and all that follow.
I am of course a little nervous to be meeting one of the most inspiring men of the 20th and 21st century. A father figure to us all, for our planet and all of it's incredible creatures and creations. With beautiful documentation of our planet and tireless persuasion he has given us insight into our destruction, with tempered words he has discribed the urgency to change our ways and be kinder to our world. Now more than ever we must look to the future with adaption in mind to study nature, science and create techonolgies and solutions. We are at a tipping point, we have been warned, its time to take heed to every nuance and change our ways.
Watercolours Beginners to Intermediate
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Watercolours Beginners to Intermediate
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For full course details go to-
The Cosmoparticle Initiative is a five-year programme within the Department of Physics and Astronomy (P&A), linking the P&A Astrophysics and High Energy Physics (HEP) groups with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory Cosmology group. I was commissioned for UCL's Cosmoparticle Initiative in 2017 to merge art and science. The artwork I created incorporates the my reflections on dark matter, particle physics, galaxies and the cosmic microwave background. The artwork 'COSMOPARTICLE' resides on permant display in the Cosmoparticle Hub at UCL.
UCL has put together a wonderful video to tell us more about the amazing work being done and it also shows the unvieling of the artwork. For people who would love to do a PHd at UCL I highly recommend taking a look especially if you are interested in Physics and Astronomy and the merging of Art and Science.
Click here to see the VIDEO from the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative ABOUT page.
A video I recorded of the creation artwork is here below for you to see all the input and ideas coming together over a period of 5 months incorporating visual data provided by Hiranya Peiris, Chamkaur Ghag and Andrew Pontzen.
COSMOPARTICLE Limited Editions Click here
COSMOPARTICLE Art Posters Click Here
Feel free to comment below and share at will!
Thank you for all who came to Cardiff Life Drawing Sessions in @threedoorsup we had a fab time and produced some wonderful work. I will be intouch with dates for the New Year at a new location.
Facebook event page click here
Cardiff Life Drawing Sessions- 3 Hours
Tutor: Penelope Rose Cowley
Location: Queens Arcade, Cardiff
Meet 4.20pm at the bottom of escalators @THREEDOORSUP. not far from Newlook.
£15 per person. Max 8 people.
Cash on Arrival
6 Easels supplied.
Bring your own materials. i.e. Papers, Pencils, Charcoal etc.. plus your own board, we have some but mainly A3, a few larger ones and card board sheets. We will be making larger boards in the coming weeks.
In the following works I have been influnced by 'Penrose Tiling'. Sir Roger Penrose is a very interesting character and I highly recommend researching him. Wikipedia is a good starting point.
I have so much to say about this man and his thoeries, who he is working with and the people who work his equations to comprehed the universe. I recently had a wondeful meeting with two phyiscist from Cardiff University Physics and Astronomy who I hope to work with next year. More information will be coming soon on that one...
For now enjoy these:
UCL Math & Phys Science
@UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences - cutting edge research and teaching, have today unveiled the COSMOPARTICLE painting.
Read the full article 'Making sense of the Universe through art and physics' on the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative pages.
Prints are available ... click here