UCL News


Artist 'Ravelling, Unravelling' with UCL mathematicians

12 May 2008


Naheed Raza naheedraza.co.uk/" target="_self">Naheed Raza
  • UCL Mathematics
  • The Wellcome Trust Arts Awards Scheme has funded a collaborative project between the UCL Lighthill Institute of Mathematics (LIMS) and artist Naheed Raza, a UCL Slade School of Fine Art graduate (MA Fine Art 2007).

    The one-year project, entitled 'Ravelling, Unravelling', will culminate in an exhibition and symposium at the LIMS in spring 2009. It will involve a creative response to topological and geometric investigations currently being undertaken in the biomedical fields, specifically those relating to the packing and unpacking of material within the human body and used in the treatment of disease.

    Ms Raza said: "Macroscopic twisting and foldings can be found in many places within the human body, for instance, in the organisation of the gut and also in the treatment of medical conditions such as aneurysms by intra-vascular coiling. Microscopic investigations of DNA reveal the knot-like organisation of their strands within the cell and, although the correct ravelling and unravelling of these forms is known to be critical for human health and well being, the physical processes themselves remain largely a mystery. Thus the insights of Knot Theory, an examination of the twisting patterns in the tendrils of plants and a consideration of how mythical structures such as the Gordian knot might be formed, may be of significance."

    "The concepts of ravelling and unravelling have relevance in the arts and humanities as well as science. For example, how time might be structured or re-structured is a key question concerning artists, poets and philosophers," she added. "Interestingly, the rise of theoretical models to explain ever-more complex ideas about life or matter in science is mirrored by an ever-stronger desire to find physical and tactile equivalents. An investigation into twisting and folding structures offers the possibility of establishing a common thread for debate and discussion between a range of disciplines and could potentially lead to new insights in fields spanning the art-science divide."

    In order to draw out concepts and images taken from the biomedical arena to develop a new body of artwork, Ms Raza will have regular discussions with Professor Steven Bishop (UCL Mathematics) and Dr Gert Van der Heijden (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) as well as researchers from UCL CoMPLEX (Centre for Maths & Physics in the Life Sciences & Experimental Biology) and UCL Hospitals.

    If you have any relevant images or articles, please contact Naheed Raza or Professor Bishop

    To find out more, use the links at the top of this article

    Image: 'Sculpture 445' by Naheed Raza. This started off as a 35m length of normal string for household use. After many twistings the structure takes on a permanent form in an un-repeatable pattern not unlike trajectories on a chaotic attractor