BELFAST-born artist Gemma Anderson will act as NI Science Festival’s first-ever Artist in Residence

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First-ever artist in residence for NI Science Festival

The position’s set to be a world first for the pioneering festival; with no evidence of similar festival’s making such an appointment.

The residency, which is supported by the British Council, will see Gemma exhibit her works at the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University, host a talk and deliver drawing workshops.

The 34-year-old’s presentation of work includes Isomorphology, whereby she examines the shared forms of animal, mineral and vegetable morphologies through drawing and artistic research. Her exhibition, entitled Drawn Investigations from Art and Science, featuring three distinctive bodies of work and the loan of scientific specimens from the Ulster Museum, opens this Thursday, February 18.

Alongside this, her talk on Friday, February 19, will discuss the connections between her work and the Natural Sciences and she will be joined in conversation by a scientist from Exeter University.

Her workshops, which take place this weekend (Feb 20 and 21), will explore the shared forms and symmetries between species through drawing, as well as experimenting with drawing algorithms and natural form. Practiced in the Naughton Gallery, these workshops use artworks and museum specimens as source material and it is a rare opportunity for the public to get hands on experience of the Ulster Museum collections.

Previously a student at Ulster University and now a researcher and university lecturer in London and Cornwall, Gemma is excited to be displaying her work at Queen’s.

She said: “I’m super excited to be NI Science Festival’s first ever Artist in Residence – it’s great to see a festival in Northern Ireland being as culturally progressive as this and opening minds to the connections between art and science.

“I’ve always been interested in science — at school I did biology A-Level and loved it, but  learning through text books did not work as well for me as learning through more visual means, so I decided to pursue a career in art.

“During my degree I was able to use drawing to enter into scientific contexts and while an MA student at the Royal College of Art, I developed a number of collaborations with scientists in institutions like the Natural History Museum and Imperial College, London. These collaborations have transformed into residencies and are still ongoing.”

Some may be sceptical of the links between art and science, but for Gemma, they are deeply connected.

She said: “Science and Art collaboration isn’t a new thing, it’s been happening for a very long time — but in comparison to art, science is a relatively young discipline – we only have to look to drawings of Leonardo da Vinci or the prints of Meria Sibylla Merian, to see how they’ve always intertwined. Personally, I take a lot of inspiration from artworks of Paul Klee which investigates morphological structures of plants and animals and reveals a bridge between observation and abstraction.”

Gemma also feels that artists can inspire more people to become interested in science.

She said: “I think exhibitions such as this can definitely make people more interested in science – I’ve seen in previous workshops that I’ve conducted that many people really react to observation and drawing instead of the classic scientific textbooks, which may have put them off in school. The ‘Art-Science’ culture helps people to ask interesting questions and not take the conventions of art or science for granted.”

Also speaking about the exhibition was David Alderdice, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.

He said: “The British Council is delighted to be supporting the NI Science Festival’s first ever Artist in Residence. Science and arts are sometimes lazily considered opposites but we are increasingly seeing innovative linkages and creative collaborations between the two.

“Gemma’s work can inspire us all to look at things differently and we look forward to supporting similar projects in the future.”

The Northern Ireland Science Festival runs from this Thursday, February 18 until Sunday, February 28.

Drawn Investigations from Art and Science will run at the Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University, Belfast from this Thursday, February 18 until Sunday, March 6. Gemma’s talk will take place on Friday, February 19 at 5pm and her drawing workshops on Feb 20-21. All events are free.

British Council Northern Ireland is also proud to support this year’s SciComm Cabaret, which will takes place at the Black Box, Belfast onWednesday, February 24 and features some of our best known Science Communicators; including mentalist David Meade, TV star Simon Watt and geek songstress Helen Arney.

Meanwhile budding science communicators should look out for the SciComm Bootcamp on February 26 and British Council’s global lectures series, which will take place throughout 2016.

For more information on British Council’s involvement in this year’s festival visit

For more information about Gemma Anderson’s work visit

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