Physics and Astronomy Art and Crafts Exhibition

Painting of sheep

“Over the hills and far away” by Richard Webb

Just over six years ago, Richard Webb sent out a tentative email to colleagues in Physics & Astronomy to find out if anyone else was interested in arts and crafts.  That was the start of the department’s Art Group, which is just about to hold its sixth exhibition, now featuring artists from across the University.   It’s been six years of surprises.  First of all, we discovered an unexpected dimension to people we work with every day, but who we had no idea were abstract painters, or produced exquisite pencil drawings or made furniture in their spare time.   Secondly, the work submitted for our first exhibition was so varied – in media, style, artistic approach – and of such a high standard, that we rather regretted not telling the rest of the University about it (we’ve made up for that since).  And since we opened up the group and the show to artists from across the University, we’ve found likeminded people in all academic disciplines and staff groups.

Within the Department, Richard Webb’s bright acrylic paintings – often featuring sheep – have been a feature of the exhibition from the beginning, as have David Lidzey’s abstracts in oil and John Williams’ photographs.  We’ve seen the emergence of Tim Richardson’s quirky paintings and ‘apple art’ (sadly one piece met an untimely demise before the close of the exhibition last year).    We’ve had contributions from undergraduate and PhD students, technical and office staff, postdocs and professors, including animation, paintings, drawings, photography, crafts…

We’ve also  discovered artistic activity everywhere, from the IC to ScHaRR, from Law to Oral Microbiology, from Music to Mechanical Engineering.  Within the Faculty of Science we have featured jewellery and metalwork from Chemistry, photography from BMS, printmaking from MBB and animation from Psychology.   There has also been a recurring theme of scientific images seen as art – last year we featured some striking images from the Kroto Institute, and a collaborative piece by a Research Fellow from the MRC Centre working with a fine art student from Sheffield Hallam.

Why do we invest time and effort in this?  Firstly because it’s brought together staff  and students in unexpected ways, originally within the department but now much more widely, but also because it challenges the lazy stereotypes about scientists and the supposed gulf between art and science.   Above all, it promotes the department as a place where creativity is valued and celebrated.

The Exhibition is open from 16-18 May, 10.00 am-4.00 pm, in E32, Hicks Building, Hounsfield Road.  Admission is free, but donations are requested to our selected charities, Edale Mountain Rescue and St Luke’s Hospice.    You can find out more about the Art Group here: