Unweaving the Rainbow: exploring colour with art and synchrotron radiation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

This project aims to engage the public with the science emerging from the Sheffield group's use of STFC supported central facilities - particularly synchrotron radiation - to probe the origins of structural colour in biological structures such as bird feathers and butterfly wings. The proposal brings together scientists with a long record of successful use of STFC facilities with a practising artist who already has an existing outstanding track record of public engagement with research in a number of different fields, especially working in schools. The project will significantly develop and enhance science capital by drawing together arts and science audiences and by involving a cohort of late primary and early secondary pupils from South Yorkshire schools.

Key features:

i.) The science topic offers a different and novel way of engaging audiences by taking very familiar concepts - the notion of colour, and our experience of brightly coloured birds and insects - and illustrating how our powerful new techniques like synchrotron radiation scattering and nano-tomography can relate those to the hitherto unseen nanoscale world.

ii.) Engagement of artists and poets gives unexpected insights into the nature of scientific practise

iii.) The focus will be on audiences with low existing levels of science capital, in South Yorkshire and elsewhere, including a cohort of 4 local schools

Through this active process of engagement our audiences will gain a fuller understanding of the complex nature of light - how colour is perceived though absorption reflection and refraction. The project will also further understanding of what happens in the realm of the 'very small' and the 'very big', through the exploration and explanation of how STFC facilities open up access to length scales outside normal human experience.

These aims will primarily be achieved through our touring event programme based on a 'pop-up portfolio' of new and existing works based on Paul Evans' recent work as artist in residence research - and new work based on images from experiments undertaken by The University of Sheffield scientists at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF), ISIS and RAL.

Much of the artwork to be displayed in the portfolio, primarily based on photonic structures, will be created through an outreach programme of creative workshops/discovery days for South Yorkshire schools that will be devised and led by the project artist Paul Evans along with University of Sheffield scientists.

This innovative and engaging programme of activities will include blindfold drawing/modelling of 3d prints, colour by numbers activities for younger students, creative writing, and dexterity tests/games based on sampling procedures that the artist observed at the ESRF and cutting edge research that is currently being undertaken at ISIS and RAL.

Art created by the young people during these workshops will also be informed by 'The Beauty of Science' - ESRF's online gallery of scientific images from synchrotron research: http://www.esrf.eu/home/news/beauty-of-science.html and similar material from Diamond and ISIS

The portfolio, and the delivery team that will facilitate its associated activities, will tour a number of venues/events throughout the north of England during Autumn/Winter 2017.

The project will be supported throughout by the University of Sheffield Public Engagement and Impact Team.

Planned Impact

We plan to use the following ways to inform people

Web site: Web site - as an example of our ongoing collaboration there is already an extensive website detailing a non-scientists interaction with Scientists who use STFC facilities to study materials https://structuralcolour.org/

We will create a new project web site that will act as an on-line gallery for art and images created during the project and as an archive for images of the exhibitions, talk and activities along with for audience reactions and comments.

(This will be maintained by The Sheffield Structural Colour Group after completion of the STFC funding)

STEM ambassador hub - used to broadcast events and activities to Schools in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire - (Dr Washington and Dr Parnell are actively involved in running events)

Social Media - via Jones Twitter account (over 2000 followers)
Project Facebook Page and Twitter account

A touring programme of talks and pop-up exhibitions to take place in venues across the North of England including:

http://www.inspirationforlife.co.uk/index.php?nav=events Researchers Night - advertised widely to Schools and educators across South Yorkshire

Live Late Museums Sheffield - also advertised across Sheffield and is already well established

Ideas Bazaar 2018 - a similar University of Sheffield event the Festival of the Mind had a total of 50,000 visitors and is widely advertised on billboards and flyers across the Sheffield City region and beyond. This will be the same for the Ideas Bazaar and funding for this advertisement will be covered by The University of Sheffield.

Manchester Science Festival

The Great Exhibition of the North (Gateshead & Newcastle)

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title The Rose of Temperaments 
Description The Rose of Temperaments is a 36 page pamphlet published by Longbarrow Press. The Rose of Temperaments is a collaborative project featuring poetry by Angelina D'Roza, A.B. Jackson, Chris Jones, Geraldine Monk, Helen Mort and Alistair Noon. Each poet has been allocated one of six primary or secondary colours - Red, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow and Orange - and has created a sonnet based on that colour. An essay by Paul Evans, on the origins and development of the project, appears here. Two critical essays by Brian Lewis - 'White Point' and 'Black Square' - reflect on the relationships between the 'paired' sonnets of The Rose of Temperaments, via meditations on field recordings, colour perception, night walks, and the paintings of Kazimir Malevich, and two further essays by University of Sheffield scientists Richard Jones and Tony Ryan discuss the physics of colour vision and the use of synchrotron radiation to study the structures that lead to structural colour in birds, beetles and butterflies. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The pamphlet has exposed a new audience of poetry enthusiasts to the links between art and science exemplified by the subject of colour - linking the emotional effects of colours with the physics underlying colour perception. 
URL https://poetryandcolour.com
 
Title Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? 
Description An exhibit combining a virtual reality environment which attempts to bring to life neutron scattering experiments to probe the complex nanostructures that underlie the phenomenon of structural colour in biological systems such as bird feathers and butterfly wings. In the VR environment the interaction between neutrons and the nanostructures is visualised in an interactive and awe-inspiring way. The VR exhibit is supported by 3d printed artefacts illustrating the concepts and a series of six paintings by Paul Evans in primary and secondary colours, made using traditional pigments and new materials employing structural colour technology. The format, reminiscent of the view through an optical microscope, encourages minute scrutiny. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Several hundred observers Positive feedback 
URL https://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/whos-afraid-of-red-yellow-and-blue/
 
Description Futurecade - Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?" was an art/science exhibit that was part of the "Futurecade" exhibition in Sheffield's Millennium Galleries between 26 September and 3rd October. The exhibition was open to the public, and also attracted a number of visits from schools.

This was an ambitious art-science collaboration that resulted in two vibrant and visually arresting responses in virtual reality and painting to new discoveries around the physics and biology of colour. The event explored recent research using synchrotron and neutron radiation to study the origins of structural colour in bird, butterflies and beetles. The centrepiece of the work was a virtual reality arena in which participants could immerse themselves in an awe-inspiring microscopic world, as seen by a neutron probing a biological structure - a hugely enlarged sculptural form based on the internal structure of a beetle's scale. An accompanying screen enables onlookers to view the action while waiting to participate. The VR exhibit was accompanied by Rose of Temperaments II - a series of six paintings by Evans in primary and secondary colours, made using traditional pigments and new materials employing structural colour technology. The format, reminiscent of the view through an optical microscope, encourages minute scrutiny.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/whos-afraid-of-red-yellow-and-blue/
 
Description Grimsby Schools visit - Edward Heneage Primary School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A team comprising fine artist Paul Evans, scientists Andy Parnell, Rachel Kilbride and Thomas Sexton visited Laceby Primary School, Grimsby for 2 interactive sessions with primary school children. The sessions - each 2 hours long - involved talks on the art and science of colour, supported by specially developed interactive science demonstrations and art activities. After school parents and carers of the pupils were invited to see what the pupils had been doing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ourbigpicture.co.uk/index.php/projects/unweaving-the-rainbow-2018-2019/
 
Description Grimsby Schools visit - Laceby Primary School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A team comprising fine artist Paul Evans, scientists Richard Jones, Andy Parnell, Rachel Kilbride visited Laceby Primary School, Grimsby for 2 interactive sessions with primary school children. The sessions - each 2 hours long - involved talks on the art and science of colour, supported by specially developed interactive science demonstrations and art activities. After school parents and carers of the pupils were invited to see what the pupils had been doing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ourbigpicture.co.uk/index.php/projects/unweaving-the-rainbow-2018-2019/
 
Description Grimsby Schools visits - Elliston Primary School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A team comprising fine artist Paul Evans, scientists Andy Parnell, Rachel Kilbride and Thomas Sexton visited Laceby Primary School, Grimsby for 2 interactive sessions with primary school children. The sessions - each 2 hours long - involved talks on the art and science of colour, supported by specially developed interactive science demonstrations and art activities. After school parents and carers of the pupils were invited to see what the pupils had been doing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ourbigpicture.co.uk/index.php/projects/unweaving-the-rainbow-2018-2019/
 
Description Poetry pamphlet launched 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A poetry reading, featuring specially commissioned poems on the subject of colour being read by their authors, award winning poets Helen Mort and Chris Jones, together with talk and conversation between the poets, designer/publisher Brian Lewis, fine artist Paul Evans, and scientist Richard Jones. The event was the launch event for a volume of poetry inspired by the theme of colour, together with an essay on the physics of colour and colour vision by Richard Jones, and an essay on studying colour in biology using synchrotron radiation, published by the poetry publishing house Longbarrow Press.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://longbarrowpress.com/2018/06/25/the-rose-of-temperaments/
 
Description Public lecture, Festival of the Mind 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public lecture by Scientist Richard Jones and Artist Paul Evans to discuss the art and science of colour, in the context of the collaborative artwork "Who's Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue", part of the Futurecade exhibition held in Sheffield's Millennium Gallery between 26th September and 3 October.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/whos-afraid-of-red-yellow-and-blue/
 
Description School Visit (Rawmarsh) 19.4.18 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact As a result of the success of a previous workshop held for pupils at Rawmarsh School Rotherham on 14/12/2017, we held a repeat of the day at the University of Sheffield, in which 34 children came for 4.5 hours for a structured programme of talks and art/science activities on the theme of colour in biology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description School visit (Rawmarsh) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An activity day was designed in collaboration with a fine artist, Paul Evans, for lower secondary school children from a school in a region with low HE participation rates. The day involved a visit to the University by 30 children with 2 teachers, and combined art/science activities and talks to introduce the children to ideas about structural colour in biology and the use of synchrotron radiation to study this subject. Comments on the day include ""This was an excellent day and a fantastic opportunity for the students. Please do more." Teacher, Rawmarsh Community School", ""I enjoyed talking to the scientists to get a better understanding and I liked the My Favourite Colours activity.'" Dulcie, Year 7" ""I loved seeing the 3D print-outs and drawing what we felt. Maybe make the presentation more interesting so that you remember it." Suzy, Year 7" "It was amazing to talk to the scientists and experience different experiments." Ruby-Jo, Year 7. The day allowed us to develop resources and trial activities that we will use in future events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Sheffield Live interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with local radio station "Sheffield Live", discussing the art and physics of colour, with scientists Andy Parnell, Richard Jones and fine artist Paul Evans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Unweaving the Rainbow at Grimsby Top Town Market 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a family drop-in held in a busy public area in Grimsby on a Saturday, with artist Paul Evans and University of Sheffield scientists, exploring colour in art and science, with demonstrations and exhibits about how we perceive colour, how animals and plants use colour, and how scientists use techniques like synchrotron radiation to explore how birds, butterflies and beetles create colours through the microscopic structures of feathers and scales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/1333693510101824/