Review: Harmonious Complexity

I enjoyed a visit to the exhibition Harmonious Complexity at the University of Dundee Tower Building.  This is part of a season of events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of D’Arcy Thompson’s book On Grown and Form

The exhibition combines objects and documents from the University collection with works by several contemporary artists, including an entertaining animation of Archaeopteryx by Brendan Body (DoJCA) …

… in an ingenious ‘Pepper’s ghost’ style presentation.

There are also a number of panels describing new research being carried out in biomathematics and developmental biology, and even an interactive that lets you apply mathematical distortions to various images (very user friendly, no algebra involved).

As I said, I enjoyed the exhibition. I think I’d say it felt quite eccentric, but perhaps in the best possible way. It’s a rather eclectic collection of odd and interesting things. Scattershot is a term than might come to mind! My brain would have liked the panels about current mathematics to be laid out with a little more room for thought. I’m afraid I do find that there are some kinds of well fortified layout that I struggle to attack these days, maybe it’s an age thing.

However (!!!) odd, eclectic and (especially) eccentric are all adjectives that sit more than comfortably with events recalling D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson.

I found some of the letters fascinating. Some are exchanges between Prof. Thompson and other greats of his day, but I particularly liked a letter from D’Arcy to a good friend discussing the difficulties of persuading his publisher to make the second publication run of On Growth and Form be a revised reissue, with updated plates as well as texts. Inevitably this was going to involve the publishers in greater expense, and equally inevitably, DWT got what he wanted in the end.

So – the exhibition is something of a cornucopia of curiosities. If you like that sort of thing (and I do) it’s well worth a quick look if you’re in Dundee. If you are a true D’Arcy fanchild, you’ll know about it already and may be prepared to go further out of your way – while at the exhibition I met an enthusiastic visiting mathematician who’d traveled from Mexico via Oxford, and was very pleased that he had had the chance to drop in!

Harmonious Complexity
An exhibition celebrating 100 years of On Growth and Form, is at the Lamb Gallery (Tower Building, University of Dundee), 13 October – 15 December, Mon-Fri 09.30-19.00 Sat 13.00-17.00, admission is free.



About stevedsmart

Steve Smart is an information designer, poet and artist. View all posts by stevedsmart

Comments are disabled.

%d bloggers like this: