Text by Dr Jasmine Pradissitto
As a Physicist and Artist my work is about metaphors; the connection of ideas and methods from seemingly very different worlds in order to find some new resonant harmonic. This is common to all artists of course as they trawl their individual experience to find visual metaphors, but mine are based in paradox and duality; the very foundations of the Quantum World and of Light.
Duality is not only responsible for the very ‘being’ of light as both wave and particle but also for the stuff of matter. Simply by attempting to interact with something we change the nature of that thing. But is this not ultimately the ideal of all Art? So, my original training in painting and figuration led me to address this paradox through another language I understood; that of physics.
My inspiration using the Heisenberg Uncertainty machine, was to find a way to produce the ‘perfect’ line. Maths and physics have an elegance which is mirrored in the aesthetic of the visual. In science we seek the ‘elegant solution’; in art, ‘the perfect form’. If they exist at all they are not coincidental but constrained by rules. Paradoxically total freedom can only exist within constraint. So the ‘machine’ which was only half automated, had constants and variables as in any experiment, yet the results were strangely reminiscent of natural, organic forms. That body of work, was about line and texture inspired by the mathematics of the Pendulum, Chaos or other Periodic systems such as Cymatics, but it lacked the sensuality of colour that every painter who has ever squeezed a delicious tube of paint craves. I needed to change my hypothesis. How could colour be produced and layered but with light instead of paint to create luminous pieces that could hang as paintings?
I started to apply my scientific knowledge of different optically active materials and recently completed the first series of drawings and paintings in light. Ironically, my inspiration took me away from abstraction back to nature and my figurative training. Back to the repeating patterns of nature, all seemingly linked by some tenuous thread I could not yet quite grasp, where the process of evolution was as important as the finished piece.
The process of experimentation in materials and methods began. A constant paradoxical act of construction and destruction to uncover a new method, finally, finding a way to light and hang with permanence. ‘Paintings’ that are black without natural or artificial light, yet which change subtly in colour with the slight tilt of the head or movement of body. The paradox had been addressed.
I remember the day I read that the metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly, in which a soup of genes is literally turned into another, was still one of the biggest questions in science. The duality of this did not escape me. That something so beautiful and easily dismissed as the epitome of the decorative in nature could yet be so complex and deeply rooted in science. It grabbled my visual imagination as I had experienced something similar with another piece I had made from the world of mathematics; The E8. A 248 dimensional shape, but so akin to a cake doily that it could easily be overlooked and yet, in all its intricacies of symmetrical pattern, could hold answers to some of the most fundamental questions in science.
The ‘butterfly’ has resonance with so many things from engineering to psychology. The structure of its wings has led to architecture and mobile phone advancements; its gathering in clusters in the millions becomes reason for cultural and spiritual celebration; its metaphor as ‘soul’ is inherent from the Greek myths to religion as an analogy for the necessary journey of suffering and change to enlightenment; in the chambers of the Holocaust camps its drawn presence in the thousands, represented hope; in weather it is an analogy for the divergence of predictability and in physics it represents the nature of Chaos.
And so I found my two resonant frequencies for Art and Physics and I find my work has gone full circle. Like an elegant equation with a visual solution.
My inspiration in nature it would seem, was not at the exclusion of physics, but precisely because of its inherent presence in everything. What better way then, than to use ‘quantum paint’ to represent the nature of everything.
Pradissitto’s Quantum Paintings in light embrace the dual world of the Physicist and Artist in an exploration into the nature of what contemporary painting is.
Born in Taunton to an Italian father and French mother, her early years were shaped by the colours of Italy and molded by a family friend, the Painter Elliot, who she watched paint for hours when she was child.
Now based in South London where she lives with her teenage son, her path to art has not been the usual one. A first degree in science was followed by working for ICI and culminated in a Ph. D from UCL on the Quantum behaviour of silicon. But whilst at UCL in the day, she also attended Goldsmiths College in the evening to study Fine Art.
Her works combines her love of paint, duality and paradox in an innovative painting method in which light and plastics replace canvas and paint. The new series was shown for the first time in a solo show in Venice last year at the Palzzo delle Prigioni, and a piece was shortlisted for the Threadneedle Prize in 2012 and Creekside 2013. She has also exhibited solo in London with Trudie Stephenson of Emineo Art and been shortlisted for various prizes such as the Celeste Painting Prize, Ludlow and Lautieri Moores. She has work in the Tokyo and Hove Museums and has sold to various private collectors.
In addition to her Fine Art practice, she is also a Visiting Fellow lecturing on the nature of ‘creativity’ in Science faculties and has taught and spoken at all levels on the cross-fertilisation of art and sciences in terms of creative and innovative thinking.