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MORPHOGENESIS - The Origin of form - Goethe's dream of art & Science.

The Ancient Greeks believed that the images of waking life and dreams came from the same source, Morpheus, “He who Shapes".

Newton looks at science while missing art
Newton by William Blake, a fellow romantic, both Blake and Goethe critiqued the seperation of art and science

What is the origin of form? Where does shape come from? What informs the patterns and textures we see and touch throughout our world? These questions have long fascinated me. The field of morphology, the study of form, was first defined by the German poet Goethe, who believed in an "urpflanze" - an archetypical plant. It was Goethe's dream that morphology would reunify the fields of art and science.

“The Primal Plant is going to be the strangest creature in the world, which Nature herself shall envy me. With this model and the key to it, it will be possible to go on forever inventing plants and know that their existence is logical”. “Nature always plays, and from which she produces her great variety. Had I the time in this brief span of life I am confident I could extend it to all the realms of Nature – the whole realm“. -Goethe

the phyllotaxis organisation of seeds in a plant

In his 1917 book "On Growth and Form," D'Arcy Thompson coined the term "morphogenesis" from the Greek morphê (shape) and genesis (creation). He described the physical constraints affecting growth that resulted in the art forms we observe in nature, such as the phyllotaxis of a sunflower or the spiral of a snail shell.

Shortly before his death, Alan Turing's final academic work expanded upon the field, using mathematical models to explain emergent patterns and organization. Turing's patterns laid a foundation for the mathematics of morphology and have been used to simulate the growth of biological structures such as cell division in embryos,

Dendritic copper crystal as found in nature
Dendritic copper crystal as found in nature

as well as the geological and chemical processes that result in the repeating fractal form of mother nature from the atomic formation of crystalline structures to the grand accretion of planets.

a glimpse of how nature weaved such artful ordered chaos.

Learning about morphology has given me a glimpse of how nature weaves such artful ordered chaos. This interest has influenced my metalwork, reigniting my fascination with form. I began to notice the patterns of metal and became interested in metallurgical processes in both nature and industry.

scrap copper water tanks
Scrap copper

This curiosity led to a series of works focused on the process of electrolysis, typically associated with industrial refinement and recycling of precious metals. I have used electrolysis to grow crystals of pure elemental metal, the very same structures found in native metal crystals. The work is an exploration of transforming industrial recycling processes into a medium for artistic expression.

The vessel is a skeleton made from recycled copper water tanks, upon which the crystals grow. The form is a celebration of the intentional and deliberate hand of the maker and the emergent chaotic order of natural morphology. The crystals themselves are growth structures, as copper would be found in the natural environment.

The patterns formed by the crystalline growth can be influenced by various parameters to create different shapes, patterns, and textures.

As an artist, I map a narrative throughout my life to bring understanding and meaning to my curiosity. By listening to the voice of curiosity, my subconscious and waking world inform my creativity. Perhaps this is Morpheus leaving clues in the path of my life.


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