Friday, October 28, 2011

Hanging the exhibition 3

All set up: there's a small bench just inside the door where I can sit and work at my embroidery while the gallery is open, which means visitors can see the process that goes into making my artworks.
The banners are out, ready for the first visitors to arrive. I hope to see you at 6 Scott Street, Pyrmont, one day during the next week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hanging the exhibition 2

Quite a bit of discussion was required before we could decide exactly where each of the 10 works were to be hung. I'm very lucky that Alexandra was prepared to consider my opinion and offer her own experience and advice on how the art should be displayed. The final result is very pleasing, although you'll have to come and see it for yourself to decide if you agree.

Getting the lighting right took a lot of patience, not to mention ladder-climbing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hanging the exhibition 1

This week we've been hanging the Kingdom of the Blind exhibition in the Accelerator gallery space at Culture at Work. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 29th and runs for a week. Here are some photographs of the behind-the-scenes work.
Gallery manager Alexandra Sideris, who scrubbed, spackled and painted the walls in preparation for the show.
One of the works in situ -- watch out for those reflections!
Alexandra and Culture at Work CEO Sherryl Ryan discuss the logistics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Communications in the brain 2

This gorgeous image is from a study by Associate Professor Frederic Meunier of the Queensland Brain Institute on the way neurons communicate with each other in the brain. Associate Professer Meunier has graciously allowed me to use this image as the basis for a new piece of embroidery. I am already dreaming of the hand-dyed orange silks and luminous green beads that I will use as part of this work.

Unfortunately, it won't be ready for my exhibition next week, but if you come to the gallery during opening hours you might get to see me working on it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Communications in the brain 1

Last week I attended the CHAST Templeton lecture by Joe leDoux, author of The Emotional Brain. He discussed his experiments on the fear response in rats, but I was struck by the way he explained the workings of the amygdala: when the amygdala receives scary sensory input it sends out signals to various parts of the brain that cause reflexes and other actions to kick in. There is lots of communication from the amygdala to the part of the brain that makes you react to fear, but there is barely any communication (in either direction) between the amygdala and the pre-frontal lobe, where conscious thinking takes place. Therefore, leDoux says, it's no wonder that it's so much easier for emotions to control our actions than it is for our reason to control our emotions.

That makes so much sense!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exhibition: please come!

Last month I mentioned that there will be new Kingdom of the Blind exhibition at Culture at Work opening on October 29th and running for one week.
In case you can't read the invitation above, the exhibition is at 6 Scott Street, Pyrmont. The opening hours are Saturday 29th October and Sunday 30th October, 2 to 5pm; Monday 31st October to Thursday 3rd November, 4 to 7pm; and Saturday 5th November, 2 to 5pm. If you are planning to come to the opening on Saturday 29th, can you please let me know either by commenting below or on Facebook? Otherwise, you're welcome any time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Nervous 01
I have discovered a site called Spoonflower, where anyone can upload designs for printed fabric. Each week there is a theme, and you can vote for your favourites. The designs that get the most votes are printed and the fabric can be purchased from the site. I did a search using the tag "brain" and it came up with pages of fabric choices, including the one above, called "Nervous" and designed by Chris. Cute!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Golden moments

Thanks to Jessica at Bioephemera, I recently found the work of the amazing artist Greg Dunn, whose paintings of neurons and other brain structures are beautifully juxtaposed with similar works showing tree branches, grasses and other natural forms. I have blogged before about the similarities of natural structures on the microscopic and macroscopic scales, and Greg's gorgeous golden paintings really demonstrate the similarities well.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The emotional brain

The annual Templeton lecture at the University of Sydney next week is entitled "The emotional brain". It's free and open to the public. If you've got a brain and you want to learn more about it, come along.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Experimenting on a human

So far, the images I've used to inspire my embroidered works have been of the brains of smaller mammals like rats and mice. While some of the images supplied by Dr Adam Hamlin and his colleagues have been of living creatures, most of the subjects have been, sadly, deceased. This is a common problem in neuroscience: you can't simply open up a skull and watch the brain at work in vivo. Magnetic resonance imaging is one way of looking at the details of a living brain, although the problem of keeping the subject still for long enough to get a decent amount of detail continues to limit the usefulness of the machines.

When a friend recently had an MRI for medical reasons, I jumped at the chance to perform my stitching experiment on a living brain, and a human brain at that. I am looking at this work as a cross between a very intimate portrait of my friend, and an investigation into understanding the science behind magnetic resonance imaging and what it can show us about the insides of our skulls.

Here's the work in progress.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When brains go wrong...

Last weekend I attended several events at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. Among many interesting speakers was Jon Ronson, whose latest book is The Psychopath Test: an investigation into the world of abnormal psychology that started when he was asked to follow up a mysterious treatise that had been mailed to a neurologist in London. He was a funny and self-deprecating speaker, presenting himself as a modern-day Jerome K Jerome who, by the time he'd read a few chapters of the psychiatric manual, had diagnosed himself with a dozen mental ailments. He talked about the difficulty of diagnosis in cases of madness and mental illness; he (wisely, I think) steered clear of neurology and concentrated on psychology, which kept the subject approachable but left me wanting to run back to Lone Frank's Mindfield for more information.

I bought the book. The first chapter concludes with this illustration of the title of his Opera House talk: Psychopaths Make the World Go Round.
"Aren't you struck by how much action occurred simply because something went wrong with one man's brain? It's as if the rational world, your world, was a still pond and Petter's brain was a jagged rock thrown into it, creating odd ripples everywhere."
You can also see a clip of an interview with Jon Ronson by ABC television's Leigh Sales here.