Monday 15 February 2016


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

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.

For more information about Gemma Anderson’s work visit

British Council Northern Ireland is also proud to support this year’s SciComm Cabaret, which will takes place at the Black Box, Belfast on Wednesday, 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 


Notes to Editor

About Gemma Anderson

Gemma Anderson is an artist, researcher and university lecturer whose practice is at the interface of art and science. After studying Fine Art Printmaking at the Royal College of Art and Falmouth University and working on different collaborative projects with mathematicians and natural scientists, she went on to complete a practice based PhD studentship at University of the Arts London. Amongst her recent projects are the Wellcome Trust Arts Award ‘Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists’ and the ‘Jerwood Foundation Visual Artist in Residence’ programme in London. She is currently artist in residence for the Northern Ireland Science Festival (2016) and also at Imperial College (Mathematics department). She has received several prizes and grants such as the Leverhulme Artist in Residence Award, the Wellcome Trust Arts Award, the Thomas Dammann Memorial Trust Award and the Arts Council Purchase Award. Her work has been exhibited widely, as for example at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Freud Museum and the Wellcome Collection, London and in her recent solo exhibition ‘Isomorphology’ in London and Berlin. She is Lecturer of Drawing at Falmouth University, Cornwall and has been a keynote speaker at the International Thinking Through Drawing Symposium, London. Recent publications include ‘Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists’ Wellcome Trust, London, ‘Endangered: A study of the Declining Practice of Morphological Drawing in Zoological Taxonomy’ and ‘On Drawing and Mathematics: From Inverse Vision to the Liberation of Form’ Leonardo Journal, MIT Press alongside a limited edition Artist’s Book series ‘Isomorphology’ with Super-Collider, London and Atlantic Press, Cornwall.

She is currently working as Artist in Residence at the NI Science Festival and preparing an application for post-doctoral research which builds on her PhD and previous work. This project will continue her collaboration with scientists and the exploration of drawing as a way of knowing.


About the NI Science Festival

The second annual NI Science Festival celebrates the wonders of science, technology, engineering and maths. The 10 day festival, held between February18-28 2016, will focus on providing young people, adults and families with a wide range of interactive workshops, inspirational talks and exciting hands-on activities. For more information visit

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, sport and governance and last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources. For more information, please visit:, on Facebook –  or follow us on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI

For further information, please contact: 

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_N,  or Facebook