How creativity, Schroedinger's cat and mind minestrone helped me understand the innovation happening in my own work.

Mon, 10/12/2015 - 11:19 -- Dr Jasmine Prad...

I am a painter, who sculpts.

I didn't realise that till very recently.

It’s taken a long time and a whole new way of looking at things to understand the new directions my work is taking; it’s taken a lot of ‘cave’ time and a huge boiling soup of mental minestrone. And as with all things, it’s only when we think we have at last got it-why we do what we do- that it changes. But that for me, is as implicit to good art as anything else.

Routine is the nemesis of creativity and innovation.

Often described as a ‘Quantum Artist’ or Sci-Artist because of my dual background as artist and physicist and the dual nature of the light I use, I realise these titles are no longer sufficient. Classification by boxes; but what if our ‘box’ exists between two other boxes? The quantum world is full of such paradoxes and much like the famed thought experiment by Schroedinger, it is only when we open our constructed box that we find out whether the ‘cat’ is alive or dead, science or art or indeed, still neither or both? At that point, all the possible worlds the cat could exist in fall to one; the wave function is said to have collapsed. The universe we see becomes the one we have helped create much like my work, where the shapes are freed from the material of plastic, almost creating themselves.
As an artist and public speaker, I have often spoken about the ‘minestrone’ that exists in our subconscious. A life time’s knowledge, which is thrown together and which incubates when we imagine we are doing other things. As we practise for longer, that minestrone becomes fuller and richer, with more and more ingredients, until the connections that have been alluding us become so transparently obvious, that we marvel at why it took so long. But just like any builder whose house is falling down, the ‘teacher’ often forgets to take their own advice. And that is something I realise I had been guilty of.

Working in a forced isolation was right for me at one point in my career, but now that my work needs to say so much more about society and particularly our connections to each other and the environment, I have needed to rethink my ‘soup’ and the enlightening moment came after a recent visit to my other home of Venice and chance meetings with new curators and collaborators, who are also part of this brave new movement in Science and Art. Working collaboratively is so central to creativity and innovation particularly with people who don’t know ‘our story’ and require it to be clear, succinct. It’s funny how we can assume that someone must simply get what’s in our heads because it is so much part of us, but like the ‘wood and trees’ analogy sometimes it simply takes a new person to say ‘yes, but what is wood’, to allow yourself to be able to see you or your work, in a whole new light.

It is strange how the subconscious will remain closed to what drives us until we are sufficiently driven to open and allow it to give up its answers. The current fascination with Neuro-aesthetics, AI, the next Tech and Biology Renaissance and what drives our minds, is testament to this. My work, particularly the portraits and the pieces on consciousness, have alluded a collapsing wave function until recently. I realise now, it is the Italian glass I have always seen, the processes of melting and change I have always taken for granted; the reflections and masks of the Venetian canals, the interactions of communities and passionate opinions I have always simply overlooked, which have informed so much of what I do.

Plastic like glass, has a natural malleable aesthetic and yet sometimes we can overwhelm with the inherent beauty of the material. Mastering a new way of making work and the necessary technique means we can sometimes lose sight of the ‘why’.
But my ‘why’ surfaced much like the pasta as it floats to the top in a minestrone; my ‘why’ is based in the quantum processes we increasingly understand are in everything, from the photosynthesis of plants to the navigation of insects, to the Smart phones that have become virtual limbs. We overlook these things purely because they are everywhere and always have been. But the very carbon technologies creating the plastics we use, may well see the demise of the other living, breathing ecological web we take for granted. Perhaps, one day with the end of carbon based energies, we will have to go to museums precisely to see leaves-albeit in plastics , or will have to gain insight about how people really connected from the transparent portraits I have been moulding from death like masks so reminiscent of the Venetian plaster casts.

I work with transparent materials and yet the metaphor had not extended to my understanding of my own work.
Its why there isn’t an artist alive who won’t be able to recount a cringe worthy critique.
Its takes a long time to become your own critic.

But now I know, well think, I am a painter who sculpts with light and colour using the scientific knowledge I have accumulated over years of experience. But using transparent materials also means extending the metaphor to myself; forever changing perspectives, staying open and embracing the parts of the creative process such as serendipity and chance, which are also so central to Quantum Theory.