Science in the Spotlight; Karen Ingham's Work Embraces Natural History, Medical Science and Art History. as Her Latest Exhibition Opens in Wales, David Drake Explains the Process Behind It

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OVER many centuries artists and scientists alike have wrestled with the challenge of representing the natural world in visual form.

In this endeavour, art has been greatly influenced by prevailing ideas and practices in science, and vice versa - from the Renaissance to the beginnings of modern photography, from the botanical drawings of the early Victorians to the latest developments in quantum physics.

As Sin Ede has commented in her eloquent writings on the subject, it is more common for today's scientists to talk about the 'beauty' and 'wonder' in their work than it is for contemporary artists.

In addressing difficult questions about human nature, scientists have not only gained new insights into the inner workings of our minds and bodies, but also into how we construct our identities and selves.

Contemporary science continues to provide us with beguiling metaphors and new paradigms for viewing the world.

Karen Ingham is an artist with an enduring interest in the natural sciences and how scientific ideas and processes inform contemporary image making.

Her interest in what she calls "obscure science" was awakened at an early age by her family's involvement in the Spiritualist church, a milieu in which 'scientific' method and ritual combined to magically transform physical objects into vehicles for communication with the departed. She remains captivated by the roles that phenomenology and illusion play in science, as opposed to more rationalist and empirical approaches to scientific enquiry. Beyond the relevance of such ideas and narratives to her practice as an artist, Ingham's work draws directly on the patterns, forms and structures of scientific image making.

Presented for the first time at Ffotogallery, Wonder Chamber brings together various bodies of work produced by Ingham during the past decade in the form of "an imaginary museum with its interconnected spaces for the display of seemingly disparate and eclectic objects and artifacts".

This premise for an exhibition is particularly apt for an artist whose practice is divergent and interdisciplinary in nature, but always grounded in photography and lens-based media, in its various forms.

The Wunderkammer, the original Wonder Chamber, sought to create order out of the chaos of nature and introduced a standard classification system for the diverse and often bizarre collections on display in 19th Century museums. …