‘Research as Art’: A 2017 Review

By Carys Svendsen

The ‘Research as Art’ competition is back once again and needs you! From personal memory, I recall one of the winners – a PacMan-esque picture- stuck on the top of Taliesin for all to see.  Obviously, I can’t review this year’s images due to entries still being open (as to which I highly recommend entering, particularly if you’re currently researching – it looks amazing and you also have the chance for over 50 million people to see your masterpiece) but I can show you my top 3 Research as Art 2017 winners in a fun, entertaining manner!

Number 3
‘Barbie Breaks Free?’ by Katrina Pritchard

‘Barbie breaks free’ by Katrina Pritchard

Barbie is seen as a figure in many little girl’s childhoods. A doll that was a well-known socialite as well as a vet, a journalist and even the president? That’s what I call a busy life!

The image was created after the broader research project on ‘femininity at work’, which involved images of Barbie and the real female entrepreneurs credited as Barbie’s chief inspiration officers in order to understand people’s perspectives of female entrepreneurship with participants. One of the most interesting findings of the research found that participants seemingly struggled with women being seen as ‘both authentically feminine and ‘real’ entrepreneurs.’

With Barbie being seen breaking out of her packaging with perfect make-up and hair whilst being surrounded by graphs and holding a smartphone, Barbie looks like the perfect model entrepreneur. The doll was created shortly after ‘her’ appearance of Spring 2014’s ‘Sports Illustrated’ and as a result, sparked a social media debate about her place in gender politics. It could even be argued that Barbie breaking her packaging could be a physical metaphor of Barbie breaking the glass ceiling of the business world, but that’s just my interpretation.

Number 2
Banality from familiarity- Elizabeth Evans

Banality from familiarity by Elizabeth Evans

Created through analysing ancient volcanic ash, Elizabeth didn’t realise just how extraordinary and visually pleasing her mistake was until one of her supervisors pointed it out and recommended that she submit it for ‘Research as Art’. The photo itself sparked a revelation as Elizabeth realised that although these sights seem normal to her, banal even, to another person it shows just how extraordinary her career is.

I personally love the range of blue within the image and the waves on the sample itself. The image gives a rune vibe to it (like the runes in Fifth Element) and with no context provided, the image provides an almost alien quality to it, particularly with an almost glowing subject on a clinical grey background.

Number 1
‘Beauty in failure’– Emmanuel Péan

Beauty in failure

Taken with an optical microscope, Beauty in failure came around when a perovskite sample went wrong. Although Emmanuel isn’t sure exactly how it happened, it’s thought that the image was created due to an ‘incorrect deposition of ethyl acetate’, which in turn was meant to improve the crystallisation of the perovskite layer (a specific crystal structure) on the substrate. As a result, you get an image resembling meteors crashing into the sun, with the tails of the meteors, as well as the meteors, being formed from the impurities of the sample. The ‘sun’ itself is formed from a non-uniform diffusion of ethyl acetate into the perovskite sublayer, and I can promise you if you say this in front of your friends, they’re bound to be impressed!

Beauty in failure is my favourite image due to a love of the night sky and being able to see it within the image. It’s also the fact that the picture itself only appeared due to a mistake, and teaches a valuable life lesson: although mistakes are hard to accept, you just have to find the beauty in them and whilst you learn the most from mistakes, it’s also where ‘you have the most fun’.

You can find an album containing more of the Research as Art 2017 winners here.

Fancy taking part in ‘Art as Research’ 2018? Have you found an amazing image in your research work and want to show it to over 50 million people? Be sure to fill in the entry form here 
by Monday 16th April 2018!


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