The experience of working in both artistic and scientific contexts has led me to develop the ‘Cornwall Morphology and Drawing Centre’ (CMADC), a space that brings practices, questions, knowledge and objects of art and science together. CMADC has provided a live testing ground for sharing my own drawing practices of Isomorphology, the Goethe drawing method, and Isomorphogenesis with the public. In this respect, CMADC contributes to contemporary practices that consider artwork as an educational medium, as associated with the ‘Educational Turn’.
The use of dematerialized mediums such as drawing workshops, fieldwork and discussions aims to expand the question of education as art in the context of CAST – an artist studio group and project space. CMADC aims to explore ways in which art practice and learning can draw directly from Cornwall’s morphology resources: the landscape (fieldwork), Museum and University specimens and Art and Science practitioners.
CMADC was founded in 2014 by Gemma Anderson, artist and Lecturer of Drawing at Falmouth University. For more about her artistic research:
Cornwall offers an outstanding biodiversity largely due to the temperate oceanic climate, geological phenomena such as the Ophiolite Lizard Serpentine peninsula, sub-tropical gardens and the history of mining . This rich diversity of natural forms has sustained my own study of morphology and has fuelled a long history of the study of the natural world in Cornwall, which is reflected in the county’s polytechnic societies and museum collections . Cornwall is also home to an increasing number of art and science academics, due to the presence of Falmouth and Exeter Universities, which is complemented by a culture of natural science societies and artists’ studio groups.
Against this background The Cornubian Arts & Science Trust (CAST), an educational charity, was inaugurated in 2012: CAST works with artists, curators, writers and specialists from other fields, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, to develop professional expertise and exchange, to present examples of outstanding creative practice, and to create opportunities for audiences of all ages to experience ground-breaking cultural activity (CAST, no date).
CAST, an artists’ studio complex and project space is led by Teresa Gleadowe, who previously developed The Falmouth Convention that placed experiential fieldtrips at the centre of the discussion. The subsequent Penzance Convention , brought the theme of extraction to a series of fieldtrips that included art/science collaborative projects with Camborne School of Mines, and explored Cornwall’s other ‘extractive’ industries – farming and fishing. CAST is based in an old ‘School of Science and Art’ building in Helston, located between two areas of outstanding natural beauty: the Lizard and West Penwith. The aims of CAST and the history of the building inspired the CMADC project idea, which I proposed to Teresa Gleadowe in September 2014. The project began in December 2014 with the help of funding from Falmouth University’s Research and Innovation Fund.
The aim of CMADC was to use drawing as the primary mode of investigation for participants to learn about morphology: animal, mineral and vegetable. Learning took place through a series of collaborative drawing workshops with scientists from botany, mineralogy and zoology to mathematics, to identify and address questions that concern scientific and artistic practice. Each workshop offered a unique drawing method through which participants can focus and engage with a range of subjects:
- The Isomorphology of the Lizard (In collaboration with a Botanical Scientist)
- Drawing in the Fourth Spatial Dimension (In collaboration with a Mathematician)
- Drawing the Six Crystal Systems (In collaboration with a Mineralogist)
- The Art and Science of Systematics (In collaboration with a Zoologist)
These workshops build on the drawing methods developed in my own Isomorphology, Goethe and Isomorphogenesis studies by acknowledging the participants’ ability to co-create knowledge, through sharing questions that run through and alongside my artistic research. This approach reveals the methods of my own artistic practice and allows the participants to create their own knowledge about the morphological subject. The ‘art’ is therefore partly located within the transformation that occurs in this shared learning through artistic practice and leads to a change in the participants’ engagement with morphology.
With learning as a central goal, the Cornwall Morphology and Drawing Centre holds huge potential by offering participants the chance to improve drawing and observation skills while learning about plant and mineral morphology. What is so unique is that these learning activities are central to Anderson’s practice as an artist; every participant is offered the opportunity to make an active contribution to the new study of Isomorphology, which provides endless opportunities to study shared forms in nature (Hernly, 2015a).
This project repurposes redundant scientific equipment kindly donated by the University of Exeter and Camborne School of Mines for new questions and discoveries: 10 x M15c Vickers Light Microscopes and biological slide collection for observation and drawing, 8 x Monocular Carl Zeiss petrological microscopes and slide collection for observation and drawing. The combination of artistic and scientific learning resources makes this space distinctive from a conventional scientific lab or artist’s studio.
An article about CMADC by Tate St Ives Curator Kenna Hernley titled 'Drawing the real and the unknown: A look at a project by Gemma Anderson' has been published in the Peer Reviewed Journal 'Drawing Research Theory and Practice', Intellect Press, 2016. To read the abstract and access the full pdf click here.