5th August, 2013 at 6:30pm
A Summer of Learning - Jennifer Crouch
| YCN — Free

On the 5th August Jennifer Crouch explained her journey from physics to medical illustration, and how she hopes to bridge the gap between art and science.

Jennifer is an artist, educator, medical illustrator, and one of the co-founders of Jiggling Atoms. During her journey towards establishing a very personal and individual practice, she has also been a visiting lecturer and project leader at Camberwell College of Arts. With a residency at UCL around the corner, Jennifer is set to futher explore that point at which science and art collide, and she was kind enough to share her thinking about all of this and more with a group of YCN Members.

Her academic journey started with the study of physics, a sojourn which only lasted two years overall - the sheer amount of maths involved simply became too much. She admitted studying Illustration at Camberwell was a more natural next step, which led her into medical illustration. A year of drawing spoons, mugs and limbs was initially daunting, but helped her to think deeply about structure. 

As she progressed, she described how the complexity of organic forms stood out. This is what attracted her to medical illustration in the first place, as well as working in dissection rooms, where she could observe a wealth of stimuli first-hand and close up. Everything from the aesthetic of organisms - and even the symmetry of liver diseases - truly caught her eye, and stuck firmly in her mind. 

Just as importantly, something else struck her around this time; naturally-occurring interchanges of structure also mirror those in man-made processes. Take pottery, as an example, where the process of glazing is seemingly rather similar to the onset of mould on a vegetable. It renders your perception of the object very differently, but also produces all sorts of patterns and textures. The visualisation of the process, and change in appearance, got her interested in what we can't necessarily see with the naked eye; the beauty that she discovered in this investigation drove her on even further. 

Jennifer then spoke about Jiggling Atoms, which began in 2010 and led her to re-incorporate her roots in physics. As a group they initially focused on education, in teaching non-physicists (i.e. Second Year students at Camberwell) about physics. This was where Jennifer could communicate her interest in the visual outcomes of experiments, some of which can be seen here

It gave her an immense sense of achievement to have motivated the students about a subject which previously may have seemed totally inaccessible. Even more interesting was discovering that Richard Feynman - renowned physicist of the twentieth century - devised a way to visually represent mathematical equations. The pictorial kind of alphabet he devised struck Jennifer as another kind of visualisation of a scientific process. So she realised there was more to investigate - that she had more work to do.

She then name checked YCN Professional Award-winner Davy Evans, the illustrator behind The xx's Coexist album cover, as an example of an artist that documents the everyday occurrences that we tend not to register. You may notice the beauty of an oil slick on a damp pavement, but in the midst of your busy day, you may well not see what's actually happening. Looking closely at the laminar flow - when the surface is smooth - and at the turbulent flow - when the surface is agitated - is precisely what Davy achieved in his artwork. What fascinated Jennifer is the striking visualisation of their different states, in an occurrence most of us wouldn't even think to appreciate. 

There's all this beautiful structure in how the world is organised around us, and Jennifer credits her background with enabling her to both see and begin to comprehend it. Not many of us have had the chance to play around with vacuum cleaners and dry ice at the same time, but if you have, you'll appreciate the incredible visualisation thrown up by nature and the order it imposes. Klaus Weber demonstrates this perfectly.

And so does Caroline Locke with her Sound Fountains, which sees her pass sound waves through bodies of water, thereby allowing the viewer to 'see' what it looks like. With a change in the tempo or bass, the ripples and waves subsequently change, morphing into a different sonic representation of what you hear from the speakers positioned just below. It's these kinds of incredible experiments, that visualise the simplest and most commonly-experienced inputs of our lives, that Jennifer very much hopes to investigate in the next steps of her journey.  

She intends on beginning a residency at UCL in 2014. As she embarks on this next step, we can expect even more questions to be asked; such as what happens when you process an idea, and how this relates to what you see in front of you? Perhaps one of the most exciting things of all, Jennifer admits, is that no-one really knows. One thing is certain: she'll be more than happy to take us along for the ride in her experimental, educational and collaborative events to come. 

She also admitted one her most exciting discoveries of all - that scientists and artists are far more similar than we might initially expect. They're both groups of people whose view of the world is profoundly affected by their passions, and the disciplines in which they work. 

We're very grateful to Jennifer for sharing her time with us. You can also see her taking part in TEDxAlbertopolis later this year. 

Click here to see our full programme of YCN Member Events, which we will be hosting over the coming months. Not yet a member? Join here.

Written by Chris Berry. Photography by Akhil Morjaria. 

Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington Street,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    5th August, 2013 at 6:30pm
  • End:
    5th August, 2013 at 8:00pm

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