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Creating time-rich images and watching the gaps

A friend of mine from Flickr asked me recently what I meant by the phrase "time-rich image" .. here's a short explanation and some examples.

I've always been concerned that my images should represent the passing of time in some way, and this concern is reflected in the name I chose for my work "chronoscapes". Time may be represented in many ways - in photography, motion blur will indicate the passing of time, or the presence of similar forms at different stages. Both these indications of time can be seen in the image below, 'Cosmic Aqua Blur', with its streaks of gold particles moving at fast speeds, and 'younger' red/gold ink circles which have not yet begun to progress outwards.

'Cosmic Aqua Blur'

The image below, 'Go Supernova' also features motion blur, this time contrasted with relatively sharp red lines at the central stagnation point. The relative speeds of flow are apparent.

'Go Supernova'

I will be posting more on this soon; I find it a really interesting topic.

The behaviour of ink always continues to surprise me - it never does quite what I expect!  I have noticed in the lab recently that when it flows slowly over plastic, it leaves strangely shaped gaps which then sometimes become islands. I wonder if this is something to do with the surface tension properties of the ink. Here are a couple of examples; the second of which has the texture of molten glass.


hexagonal plant form


Molten flow



Insights into the inside

Last week I went along to the private view of the 'Before the Crash' exhibition mentioned below, and learned some fascinating facts about how it's possible by scanning to reveal and record the inner surfaces of objects. I wondered whether it was then possible to produce objects based on the scans which are 'inverse' - whose insides are outside and vice versa - will have to read about this.  Meanwhile, it got me thinking about topology, and about a picture I made recently where surfaces seemed to pass over and under each other in an illogical way; I called it 'Mobius trip' and it's made with light and glass:

what is inside; what is outside; what is in front of what; the topologistics are baffling

Back in the University lab, the quest to capture vortices proceeds - I tried visualizing them as flow went round a cylinder with a strip light reflection. I liked the way the reflection of the metal grid on the light bent in the water.

neon striplight reflection - the cylinder is on the extreme left of the image

Here is a more straightforward visualization with ink taking up ring forms:

And here are a couple of screenshots taken from movies I made yesterday using perspex sheets and fluids of different viscosities travelling between them:

'Bubble escape'

'Nouveau Art Nouveau'

'Nouveau Art Nouveau'  I love the idea of old art forms being re-interpreted in new terms, and these plant-like forms reminded me very much of one of my favourite artistic movements, Art Nouveau, with its stylized flowers and buds.


Solar echoes

I just came across this image of glass and light which I photographed a few days ago. Its repeated shapes put me in mind of shoals of fish cruising the bottom of the sea. The repeated shapes reflect the process by which the image was made.

Organic forms captured in full sunlight




New exhibition of scientific art

 Simpleware Ltd. is organizing an exhibition of art based on scientific phenomena as part of the European project “Immersion in the Science World through Arts” (ISWA).  I am delighted to have some work on show there. Below are details of the exhibition:



Venue: Exeter Castle, Castle Street, EX3 4PU, Exeter 

 Dates: October 15-20, 2011 

Opening times: 11am to 7pm





Elusive vortices and patterning bubbles

One of my projects during my residency at Exeter University will be to create an artistic collection of flow visualization, inspired by Milton Van Dyke's 'An Album of Fluid Motion'.  This week, thanks to my colleagues, I'm closer to understanding how vortices are created with flow around a cylinder - something I wanted to photograph. Depth of water, speed of flow, size of cylinder - all these play a part. I am hoping to make a 3D image which combines the flow at the bottom of the tank with the vortices forming above - still haven't quite got there, but here are the results so far: 

ink forming patterns at the bottom

3D patterning: swirling red ink beginning to do the vortex thing

My work with ink and glycerol travelling within perspex sheets continues to reveal interesting features.  I'm always keen to find new sources of tracks and trails, and air bubbles can create streaks like comet tails as they course through the ink. The bubbles may also form small islands around which the ink flows. Here are a couple of examples:

Comets coming down from the top


Diversions around bubble islands 


Instability in the sink

Yesterday at the lab I was intrigued to find regular patterning of ink in the most unexpected places - at the sink, whilst cleaning up between experiments using perspex sheets. Luckily my camera was still close by .. here are a couple of examples:


Making tiny waves

I think this patterning is called Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability - will check with those who know later on this week!


Ink dropping from a height and forming regular patterningThese striped patterns seemed remarkably well-defined and stable, like marbling.


Below are some natural textures formed using perspex:



 Ferns and fronds


A slice of agate


Tracking the ghosts and the slow transformations

I have been using a method of flow visualization where a slow release of ink along the bottom of the channel allows patterns to build up over time. These patterns are remarkably stable, and even remain for several seconds after the source of the patterning, such as the aerofoil shape, is removed. We then have a ghostly reminder of what was there. The pattern then begins to transform as the steady stream of regular ink pulls the curves into long thin lines. I have taken sequences of this process.  

This kind of flow visualization buys me some time - it allows me to make 'time-rich' images, which I think are the most interesting of all. The example below, called 'Cosmic impressions', is a sequence following the path of ink around a shape which is then removed in the second frame; its patterning becomes supplanted by that of the regular stream of ink (third frame). For me, this sequences has echoes of human existence, where a physical, tangible presence may leave an impression after its removal (or death), which gradually becomes transformed by the new patterning brought by the passing of time.  We see this process on a larger scale too - cosmic events involving planets or asteroids leave their impression or pattern long after the object itself has passed through, and these patterns are then modified by subsequent sets of patterning ... indeed, the appearance of the whole universe can be explained as a sequence of superimposed patterns.

'Cosmic impressions I' Life, colour, tangible presence'Cosmic impressions II' The ghost of a tangible form

'Cosmic impressions III' Integration with surroundings



New pathways

One from the lab today - more on this soon!


The amoeba and the aerofoil ....

Some unusual shapes and patterns from the lab yesterday, using equipment built for me by the workshop.  More on this to come!


'Yellow-green amoeba'


Micromacroscapes - a new video  

Earlier this week I took some video footage at the lab whilst creating Hele-shaw cells with perspex. Things went a little differently from what I had planned ! - but I enjoyed the result and decided to turn it into a short experimental movie.  The shapes and forms made me think of looking through a lens from both directions at the same time at the same set of objects - we could think of these objects as being on a microscopic or a macroscopic scale. I could see blood corpuscles, mucor, aliens, planets .. many things !

A slow flow! To get an idea of its actual speed .. Much of the footage here is speeded up, but there is one section in real time - from 0:45.13 to 2:13 seconds.



Exploring the boundaries

During my experiments at the Uni, I've been getting some curious ink effects, which I mentioned in a recent blog entry. It seemed that my ink would sometimes be reluctant to move when placed on or near a wall of perspex; despite being in flowing water. One side of the vertical ink, that which faced oncoming horizontal flow, would remain static (the other side would drift).

Now, thanks to my colleagues' explanations, I have a better idea of what's happening! It seems I encountered the boundary layer effect where the ink behaves differently near a bounding surface. Yesterday, I saw it again - this time using ink in an Ahlborn tank, placed directly on glass under a slow flow of water to create streams of colour moving towards and around a cylinder. The ink seemed to stick to the bottom for a while and then form nice streams as it joined the flow. Heavier inks worked better; the lighter ones floated away too quickly.

streams of ink around a cylinderThe ink did not touch the cylinder; instead it made a clear path around it. 

Detail of flow past, using white and red ink. Small shedding vortices can just be seen, top right

I also set up some patterns of flow illuminated from above by neon lighting. These gave some interesting abstract, but regular patterning.

I also tried out some more Hele-shaw pictures .. my experiments went in a slightly different direction! - but I thought the results interesting enough to make a movie, which I will post soon.  Meanwhile, here are some Hele-shaw fingering patterns that look like they could have self-similar features:

fractal patterning, maybeAnd here are some interesting patterns made after my experimenting, when the two perspex sheets were separated:


A few light waves too


There are similarities of form between these pictures of light and glass, and the forms found in fluid flow, seen below and elsewhere on my site ... a sense of movement is also common to both media. I hope one day to combine both approaches within my images -  it will be quite a challenge!


Surf's up

I found this stormy sea view whilst doing my Hele-shaw work in the fluids lab last week. The colours and forms reminded me of a little Cornish cove with a cave which I visited a while back.


Ink on perspex. Could be a Cornish cove with the tide flowing in fast.


Tintin and Snowy discover Hele-shaw flow ...


seascapes and marine life forms

Yesterday I used the flow visualization channel to create seascapes and bubble abstracts. It was fascinating to watch changing forms as vertical ink encountered lateral flow - would be worth videoing at some point. The two seascapes below were images of the lower part of the tank where things got a little more turbulent. The colours and textures reminded me a little of Caspar David Friedrich's work.


 organized turbulence 

Horizontal streamlines of ink remained remarkably stable, but ink introduced vertically became caught in the sideways flow, producing sharp lines on the left sides and drifting on the right sides. 

 sharpness and diffusion

From this, I understood that I could make 3D images by dropping ink behind this relatively stable patterning to create new backgrounds. I also used bubbles to create narrow flow channels, and used the drip lines on the perspex as part of the design.



static and dynamic combined

3D streams


sharp divisions

heavier than air

I also did more Hele-shaw work yesterday using my new perspex sheets which were great! Everything worked really well, and I was able to photograph complete forms in detail. Here are a couple of amoebas with bubbly vacuoles  

new amoeba

amoeba zoom


Echoes of botanical forms

red hot flow

Yesterday I did some experimental work using Hele-shaw flow. The experimental set-up involved perspex sheets with a narrow gap. I was trying to find out what worked best as regards types of fluid and the gap through which they slowly travelled. Now that I have sorted a few things out with my mockup, I can go ahead and have some perspex sheets prepared by the workshop. Meanwhile, here are some of the pictures I took yesterday. I was intrigued by the similarity between the textures and those of plant cells, as well as the plant-like shapes that these forms took.


My setuppetalsthe inner details

bracket fungi

Gradations and woody textures


Hele-shaw flowers

Here's a quick preview of what I've been doing at Exeter University today - I'll post more details tomorrow.

First time I've tried this kind of flow out; love the way it moves!



Structure and freedom

The image below was created from my work on flow visualization earlier this week.

Highly structured, constrained ink flow in the lower part of the picture gains freedom as it moves outward and along, like windblown cloud formations in a rapidly changing sky.



New place, new space, new work!

A really interesting and productive week for me, meeting new people at the University, talking to them about what I'm going to be doing, and trying new things out in the fluids lab.  My sketch book is filling up with ideas!

Yesterday I tried out some of my inks in a flow visualization channel which I set up over the sink. The water was moving towards the right. On its surface I generated some aerated ink with a pipette.  Gravity caused microchannels of ink to follow the pattern made by the bubble walls and drain downwards. These thin lines of ink then got swept along in the direction of the flow.  

I was intrigued by the beautiful tessellations of the bubbles .. more to explore here!


Residency starting in September!

I am delighted to say that next month I shall be starting a year's residency as an Artist in Residence at the University of Exeter. I shall be working with Dr Gavin Tabor at the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences to explore new artistic aspects of fluid flow, using the equipment at the Department. This will be a wonderful chance for me to work with scientists and to experiment with new techniques and equipment.

The residency has been made possible by funding from the Leverhulme Trust. More details of the residency can be seen in the latest Leverhulme Trust Newsletter - link given below. It was a lovely surprise to find that one of my images had been chosen for the cover of this edition, shown below.

I will be writing a weekly blog of my activities at the University, so you will be able to follow my progress online. Needless to say, I'll be including lots of images in the blog as well!

Here is the link to the Newsletter: Leverhulme Newsletter August 2011

Leverhulme Trust Newsletter cover featuring 'Apple and bubbles':