Pery Burge

Pery Burge's picture

My artistic practice within the area of scientific art

I am currently funded by the Leverhulme Trust as Artist in Residence at Exeter University, College of Engineering, Maths and Physics, Fluids Laboratory. During my residency I am investigating artistic flow visualization, collaborating with the scientists who specialize in fluid dynamics, and using equipment in the lab, including some which is purpose-built for my work. Examples of work arising from this residency can be seen in my Journal page at my website

I think of myself as a catalyst for nature, and use natural processes to produce images which reflect natural phenomena. For example, when working with ink on paper, heat, evaporation, chemical reaction, turbulence etc. are used to build up my images. The resulting pictures therefore reflect natural processes which we see around us.

For the past six years I have been working with ink in water to create vortices and surface tension-driven flow. This work came about because I was looking for different ways in which I could get ink to move by itself without my direct intervention. A moving substrate (water) met the case, and provided the basis for much experimentation, out of which came my present work. I photograph sequences of pictures, and have recently started making movies. The nature of the process means that the images can only exist as photographs or videos. The pictures may reflect cosmic phenomena or microscopic life forms. They often have a ‘time-rich’ aspect, for instance by simultaneously showing forms at different states of development, or by containing time-lapse trails showing the pathway of the pigments as they move. My methods, particularly with the surface tension work, have been considered by many to be innovative.

In 2011, I began to work with glass and light, which I’ve called ‘lightscapes’. The work carries the same ideas as that of ink in water; here expressed in different ways. These images make use of caustics, patterns formed when light is bent as it travels through glass. I have experimented with different types of glass, which affect the light in different ways. I have been able to build up images of landscapes, cosmic phenomena, underwater worlds, and pure abstracts by combining caustics with the patterning and colour within the glass itself. This type of image-making has great potential - I feel there is a great deal more to do in this area.

Ambiguity is a feature of all of my pictures, and the viewer’s imaginative contribution completes the creative process. I always welcome new interpretations of my images, and many examples of these new ideas (often quite different from my own) can be found on my Flickr photostream.

I believe my pictures of fluid flow and light appeal to aspects of our existence which lie 'deep down' within us, beyond words. Revealing these deep natural forces is my aim - the processes of nature itself, and how transformation is such a key aspect of such processes - things we may understand intuitively without cerebration. My guiding principle has always been that nature is the best artist, and my aim is always to reveal its unsurpassed beauty and variety. Furthermore, through visual metaphor, many of life’s questions can be discovered, explored, and sometimes answered. My ongoing process of discovery is what I like to share with the rest of the world.