A Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the influence of D'Arcy Thompson (4 stars)

A Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the influence of D'Arcy Thompson

Credit: Andy Lomas, Aggregation 24, 2005, Uni of Dundee, Art Fund and Esmée Fairbairn

Exhibition of works inspired by the man who built the bridge between art and science

When he wrote On Growth and Form, his seminal bio-mathematical treatise published in 1917, Edinburgh-born scientist D'Arcy Thompson was told by art critic Herbert Read: 'You have built the bridge between art and science'. Full of wonder and aesthetic awareness, fascinated by patterns and forms, Thompson's work is not only a classic scientific text, it has inspired artists and designers as diverse as Henry Moore and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee which was named after him has made it their business to collect works by artists he inspired, and to continuing that influence among artists today by offering residencies and encouraging students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design to engage with the collection.

Many of these works are brought together in this varied exhibition on the eve of the book's centenary. There are a number of surprises: Salvador Dali, who referred to Thompson frequently in his own writing on art, William Turnbull and Victor Pasmore, both of whom encountered him early in their careers, an enchanting wave drawing by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

There is a stunning large-scale photographic print by Susan Derges, an evocative film by Jennie Pedley, box constructions by Will Maclean, beautiful animal studies by Lara Scouller. Andy Lomas, an artist and special effects designer who was CGI supervisor on Avatar, presents two intricate prints generated by computer algorithms, showing that Thompson's influence continues into the digital age.

A series of prints made in response to Thompson by DJCAD staff (including Edward Summerton, Graham Fagen, Dalziel + Scullion) adds touches of irony and humour. This wide-ranging show not only sheds fresh light on Thompson himself, it offers insights into a galaxy of famous names who have been fascinated by his work.

City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until Fri 19 Feb 2017

A Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the Influence of D’Arcy Thompson

A look at the work of the great scientist whose book On Growth and Form laid the foundations for mathematical biology but also built a bridge between science and art.

Post a comment