‘Regarding Dynamic Processes’ – Symposium 2014

Geology & the Visual Arts

Hull School of Art & Design

Saturday 11 October 2014 – 09.15 to 17.30 (BST)

Hull – United Kingdom


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This interdisciplinary symposium explores the shifting relationships between geology and the visual arts. It is open to all and aims to:

  • Widen physical, environmental and aesthetic interpretations of our personal landscapes
  • Provide a balance between historical interdisciplinary evolutions and contemporary practices
  • Illustrate the richness and legacies of art-science collaborations in this field
  • Provide a mixed arena for dialogue, networking and potential future collaborations

Speaker Abstracts & Biographies

Dr Alan Bowden – From the Last Georgian Polymath, Dr John MacCulloch to John Ruskin, a Victorian Polymath: Geology & Art – an Approach to Interpretation, Exploration & Understanding

Starting with Sir William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei (1776), the talk will explore some aspects of the relationship between geology and art. The focus will be upon John Ruskin (1819-1900) and his approach to geology and its artistic representation following on from the work of Dr John MacCulloch (1773-1835) and his advice to artists in the depiction of rock structures and landscape. Finally we will briefly look at the influence of John Ruskin upon John Brett (1831 1902), artist and astronomer, and the post-Ruskin neo-classical school with one work of his critic Sir Edward Poynter (1836-1919).

Biography: Until Alan Bowden’s retirement he was the Head of Earth and Physical Sciences at the National Museums Liverpool; he has a strong interest in the history of science, particularly that related to the Earth Sciences. He taught and supervised on the History of Science and Technology MSc / PhD course, formerly run at Liverpool University, and was also the Chairman of HOGG (History of Geology Group) affiliated to the Geological Society of London. Alan is also a member of INHIGEO (International Commission of the History of Geological Sciences). In addition to varied history of science papers, publications have included three co-edited Special Publications of the Geological Society namely: The History of Palaeobotany: selected essays (2005), The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds (2006), and Landmarks in Foraminiferal Micropaleontology: history and development (2013).


Prof. Patrick Boylan – Yorkshire Geology and Landscapes through the Artist’s Eye: from Turner to Hockney

Over the centuries quite a number of distinguished artists have shared with geologists a passion for “reading”, interpreting and recording the landscape and the underlying geology that forms and controls it.  The numerous examples from continental landscapes and geology that could be quoted range from Jan Breugel’s painting of the Falls of Tivoli, the attempts by Francis Towne to record the grandeur and mystery of glacier crevasses in the Alps by slashing his watercolour paper with a knife, the awesome recording of the eruptions of Vesuvius by Wright of Derby, or the sublime interpretations of the Alps by Turner.  In comparison with regions both at home and abroad favoured for their awesome, sublime or “picturesque” landscapes Yorkshire with its mainly rounded hills, moors, dales and plains has generally not been recognised as of great importance to landscape artists over the centuries, though during his early work along the Yorkshire coast and many later stays with the Fawkes family at Farnley Hall Turner found inspiration in the much quieter landscapes of Wharfdale and nearby areas, in the way that almost two centuries later David Hockney understood and recorded the much-neglected landscapes of the north-eastern Yorkshire Wolds.  This is not to say that there are not dramatic landscapes and geology in Yorkshire. For example, since its sensational first appearance in the 1815 Royal Academy exhibition John Ward’s truly awesome interpretation of Gordale Scar has continued to draw to the southern fault scar of the Dales artists of all styles and abilities through the past two centuries.

Biography: Patrick Boylan is a Professor Emeritus at City University London and is President of the Yorkshire Geological Society


Dr Spike Bucklow – From Lapis Lazuli to Ultramarine

Lapis lazuli was worth its weight in gold as an artists’ pigment. This talk will consider why it was so valuable by looking at its geographic and geological origins and its processing from raw stone to pure mineral, drawing upon artists recipes that date from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries. It will place the stone/pigment in its cultural context looking at its use outside the studio (as a drug and divination aid) and show how its widely-known properties contributed a profound level of meaning to works of art. The key to that meaning – that connects the viewer to the depicted via the materials used in the depiction – is mainly drawn from thirteenth- and fourteenth-century texts and paintings. It has been lost over the past two hundred years as our understanding of our world and our bodies has changed, yet much of this old science lives on unrecognised today in folk-, alternative- and sub-cultures.

Biography: Spike Bucklow did a degree in chemistry and worked in the film industry making special effects for films (including Star Wars) and TV (including Spitting Image). He re-trained as a painting conservator and did a PhD in the History of Art. He now teaches at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge and is the author of The Alchemy of Paint (2009) and The Riddle of the Image(2014).


Hannah Sofaer – Arts & Science-Led Model for Integration of Practice

The central theme of Hannah’s talk is the Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust working model for interdisciplinary exchange across the arts, earth sciences, industrial and cultural landscape.

An essential aspect is field research and the continued recording of a ‘Living Land Archive’ © based on stone- a material that underlies all of our landscapes – where Geomorphology underpins the very fragile layer of ecology on which we exist, shaping our civilisations, culture and economy.

Government research priorities 2003-07 supported by MIRO via the Mineral Industry Sustainable Technology programme (DEFRA/ALSF) for planning for closure / after-use of quarry sites and knowledge transfer, made possible two PSQT major research projects for an arts led approach to develop a new model for regeneration. The projects were innovative in the preservation and interpretation of the geological record: new uses of quarry by products in the built and natural environment and validated educational programmes. Outcomes informed the House of Commons Geology Select Committee ‘on access to minerals for heritage restoration, and the DTI Minerals Working Group, best practice in education of the next generation of designers for sustainable use of UK mineral resources.

Biography: Hannah Sofaer studied Sculpture at Goldsmiths, Chelsea and the Royal College of Art, and has exhibited work in galleries, also making temporary installations and permanent site specific work for symposiums and some public commissions. Her role as a visiting lecturer connects with many universities’ departments of visual and performing arts, sculpture, spatial design, architecture, landscape and critical fine art practice.

She has worked extensively with quarry environments and accessing landscape, through the arts, sciences, community, architecture and industry, with the design and delivery of research projects and commissioned works with artists and scientists, applying innovative ideas for our built environment.

She has worked with the design and delivery of new education programmes across the arts & science in partnership with several UK Art Schools with the Drill Hall Research and Project Space providing a well-resourced workshop, studio and exhibition space with accommodation onsite for residencies. University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment base annual field research with PSQT at the Drill Hall and University of Brighton Arts & Humanities have delivered validated BA Elective Courses over 12 years for 21 Departments across 5 Faculties, including MA Research Electives in site specific performance and photography, with AHRC funded one year MA’s by Independent  and


Ilana Halperin – Physical Geology, a Field Guide to a New Landmass

What is the relationship between a body stone and a volcanic rock? What constitutes the geological record when we form geology and geology forms life. PHYSICAL GEOLOGY, A FIELD GUIDE TO NEW LANDMASS is an exploration of new landmass formed inside and outside the body. A thin and permeable line will be traced between geology and biology, culture and nature through the juxtaposition of unexpected rocks and minerals. Within this talk I will feature the ongoing project Physical Geology,which amasses a new sculptural geology collection, through making work which employs naturally occurring geological processes to form each object. New limestone sculptures formed in a cave in France sit alongside objects submerged in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, encrusted in fresh mineral deposits. This constellation of culturally occurring landmass continues to grow. At the moment, a geothermal sculpture is forming, suspended on a bamboo structure in Beppu, Japan. Body stones, artworks formed in caves and hot springs, a volcano as old as the artist – this newly assembled geologic strata asks us to consider our place within an evolving geological story.

Biography: Ilana Halperin is an artist, originally from New York, and currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has featured in solo exhibitions worldwide including National Museum of Scotland, Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité and Artists Space in New York. Halperin’s creative output focuses upon geological activity and phenomena in an engagement with our understanding of time. Her approach combines fieldwork in diverse locations: Hawaii, Iceland, France, Japan and in museums, archives and laboratories with an active studio-based practice. In the development of new ideas, she has had the honour and pleasure of working with organisations such as The Global Volcanism Program, the British Geological Survey and Earthwatch. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Inaugural Artist Fellowship at National Museums Scotland, a British Council Darwin Now Award and an Alchemy Fellowship at Manchester Museum. She is the Artist-Curator of the geology collection for the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, in the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Schering Stiftung, Berlin have recently published a monograph of her work entitled Neue Landmasse/New Landmass. Ilana has a deep love of geology and shares her birthday with the Eldfell volcano in Iceland.


Michael McKimm – Fossil Sunshine – Poetry Reading

Over a period of two years Mike has been collaborating with earth scientists in a project funded by Arts Council England, to write poems that explore the relationships between geology, the oil industry and climate change. Drawing on fieldwork with geologists, and inspired by the language of geology as well as the energy and imagination of scientific exploration and discovery, these poems ask what the evidence held in the geological record can teach us about 21st Century climate change. In this presentation Mike will read from the poems that have come out of his collaborations with geologists, and reflect upon the writing process.

Biography: Michael McKimm was born in Belfast and now lives in London, where he is a Librarian at the Geological Society. A graduate of the Warwick Writing Programme, he won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and was an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa in 2010. His debut collection isStill This Need (Heaventree Press, 2009) and he is published in the anthologies Best of Irish Poetry 2010 (Southword Editions, 2009), Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt, 2012) and Dear World & Everyone In It: new poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe, 2013), amongst others. In 2012 he received a grant from Arts Council England to create a new series of poems addressing the geology of climate change, which formed the pamphlet Fossil Sunshine (Worple Press, 2013).  and


Mike Horne – Where Geology Meets Art – Exploring the Interface

Mike will explore the interfaces between art and geology.

Geology provides the raw materials for sculpture, architecture, ceramics, jewellery and paints.

Art and design can enhance the presentation of geology in displays and publications. Scientific illustrations can convey more information than photographs. As an example he will talk about collaboration with Hull artist Nikki Abramson to create the geology display at the Treasure House in Beverley.

Rocks, fossils, minerals, landscape and geologists can provide subject matter and inspiration for artists.

Biography: Mike Horne is the Honorary General Secretary of the Hull Geological and


In conversation

Earl Haworth TD MBChB FRCP

Earl Haworth is a consultant physician in stroke medicine, now close to retirement, and employed at Scarborough Hospital. With no formal qualification in geology, he has long been interested in earth sciences and enjoys the privilege of being a Council member of the YGS.

With a scientific rather than artistic background, he is intrigued that there is a structural and neurobiological basis to account for the (neuroaesthetic) differences in creativity and perception between the artist and non-artist brain.

Desmond Brett

Desmond Brett is a sculptor and academic with a BA and MFA in Sculpture from the Slade. He is Programme Leader of BA Fine Art at Hull School of Art and Design, has an international exhibition record, and has worked with partners including The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Henry Moore Foundation, Kettles Yard, The Queen of Hungary Project Space and the Cornaro Institute in Cyprus, delivering residencies, popular public educational and practical arts

Jo Ray

Jo Ray is an artist based in the UK. She is interested in the gap between the idea and the lived experience. Issues of scale, landscape, architecture and social phenomena inform her practice. Jo has contributed to exhibitions, residencies and participatory projects in the UK and internationally. In recent years she has worked with organisations such as Art Gene, Red Nile, Grit & Pearl to deliver site specific commissions, including work for the inaugural 5×5 Project in Washington DC, and the ‘Seldom Seen’ Cabinet of Curiosities for Piel Island. Questions about how we value and interpret Place are intrinsic to this work. Jo studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and lectures at Hull School of Art and Design. She is about to undertake her doctoral research at Sheffield Hallam University, examining ‘The Model as Imaginative Apparatus’.

Mike Horne (as previous)


Session Chairs

Sarah Humphreys – Dean, Faculty of Arts, Hull College

Barrie Heaton – President, Hull Geological Society

Session Introducers/Closers

Prof. Patrick Boylan – President, Yorkshire Geological Society

Anna Kirk-Smith – Curriculum Leader & Lecturer in Fine Art, Fine Artist & Committee Member of Hull Geological Society

David Hill – Member of the Yorkshire Geological Society & Hull Geological Society


Aesthetic Geology Photographic Exhibition 
A call for all photographers, professional, amateur, scientific or artistic to submit images for a concurrent exhibition in the Hull School of Art & Design Foyer Gallery. The theme of ‘aesthetic geology’ is open to your creative visual interpretation. Prizes will be awarded by a panel comprising of geologists, photographers and artists. Please read the guidance notes and complete the application form. Deadline Sept 1st for online submissions, Sept 29th for printed submissions.

Both forms and further information is available on on the Symposium page, or via  and

A map of the Hull College Queens Gardens Campus is available here: 

Reception is in the Horncastle Building (no 1), further Symposium details will be emailed to registered delegates prior to the event.


Are there ID requirements or an age limit to enter the event?

This event is open to everyone with an interest in geology and/or the visual arts. There are no age restrictions, but it will not be suitable for young children.

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

There will be parking provided at Hull College, disabled places are available (please get in touch with the organiser if this facility is required).

Please follow this link to the Campus map and car park situation:

The College is a  10-15 minute walk from Hull Paragon train station, and there is a taxi rank outside the front of the station. For nearby bus stops and bus routes please visit:,-0.3354561,16z

Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Please email Anna Kirk-Smith on or phone on 01482 480970

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

It would assist, but we will have a list of delegates attending should you be unable to.