Art Doctor: skyscapes for scientists

Dear Art Doctor,

Recently my research project has been going nowhere fast. Experiment after experiment all end in failure. Can you please prescribe me some inspirational art to keep me from the bottom of a bottle?

Many thanks.

 

It seems that you’re rather in need of perspective, and the perfect cure for that is obviously vast skyscapes. Alas, by the time this goes to print it will be too late for me to suggest that you go to Turner in January. But following a similar vein of thought – though stylistically they’re poles apart – have a look at the Scottish photography of another old favourite of mine, Bill Brandt. There’s something rather staggering and awe-inspiring about his 1947 landscape work, particularly Lord Macdonald’s Forest, Isle of Skyeand Loch Slapin, Isle of Skye. What could be more inspirational than nature? And here it is in striking monochrome (with a fabulously shaggy coat). Brandt plays with perspective for effect, and you should take heed and actively control how you feel about your situation: don’t let the experiment loom larger in your mind than it deserves to.

If nature doesn’t do it for you, perhaps portraiture will. Conveniently, the National Portrait Gallery currently has a show on calledPioneers of Science. I couldn’t risk guessing what kind of experiment you’re doing, but there’s sure to be something here that will provide impetus to continue with your experiments rather than drowning your sorrows. It even has a section called “The importance of science” which should remind you that you are doing something worthwhile. This latter suggestion may be particularly effective if taken with the former: a nice balance of perspective and self-worth is pretty much a sure fire equation for happiness, isn’t it? But then, I’m no scientist.

Originally published in The Student, 31 January 2012.

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