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Adventure, Cold and Silence Transforms Scientist into Artist

Work by Professor Sandra Chapman
Work by Professor Sandra Chapman
(Print Version)

An astrophysicist from the University of Warwick recently chose to be transported to Antarctica to be exposed to extreme cold, eerie silences and life in the field in order to utilize her artistic side as part of a special programme designed to give a leading scientist a chance to work in another discipline - and the results of that adventure are to be presented at a special exhibition of her work at the University of Warwick later this month.

Professor Sandra Chapman won a NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology & the Arts) Dream Time Fellowship allowing her to travel with the British Antarctic Survey on a science ship to their base at Rothera, to gather experience of the place and the science there. The 2 month journey took place in the Antarctic summer of 2003/4 and was spent working alongside the scientists and engineers, construction workers, pilots & ship's crew. This allowed her to create paintings and mixed media sketches of the place & of the ideas associated with it.

Of course simply being in such a wild place wasn't enough for Sandra - she decided that she could only complete one painting by abseiling 30 feet inside a crevasse to paint it looking from the inside out, away, she also took the chance to travel to some Antarctic outposts that were reachable only by a landing a plane on a sheet of ice where you have no alternative but to simply spin and skid to halt. Even on the least adventurous moments she spent her time painting in sub- zero temperatures in an eerie silence broken only by the sounds of ice cracking, ice bergs calving and the breathing of nearby seals.

Sandra's artistic output has not stopped with her return to the UK - she spent a further 3 months in collaboration with Warwick Leverhulme Artist in residence, Alan Parker, producing a large artwork for permanent display within the University's physics department entitled "The Cosmic Dreamtime" - an image of the early Universe before the formation of stars- as seen in the cosmic microwave background but cast as an aboriginal dreamtime painting.

This latest work will be ready for unveiling at the same time as an exhibition of her Antarctic work opens to the public in the University Library Gallery on 19th November. The exhibition will run until to 17th December 2004 and will open with a talk by the artists on Friday 19th November 2004 at 6.00 p.m. in Physics Lecture Theatre, in the University of Warwick's Physics building.

Professor Chapman said "Scientists have many ways of seeing the world, different disciplines have different cultures but they all share the landscape of exploration, of living at the margins of what is known, of uncertainty, isolation and risk. Antarctica is the epitome of exploration, the last pristine wilderness, and as such is the perfect visual symbol of the scientific endeavour, at the edge of what we know, beautiful and unforgiving."

Electronic copies of some her art are available to illustrate this story:

For further information contact:

Professor Sandra Chapman, Dept of Physics
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523390

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523708

Sponsored by NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), The British Antarctic Survey, and The University of Warwick. See

PR142 PJD 8th November 2004