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Artist joins forces with scientists to alter our perceptions

Artist Luke JerramChristopher Jones

Press release issued: 17 January 2017

This year sees the beginning of what promises to be a visually and intellectually enlightening year for world-renowned installation artist Luke Jerram and University of Bristol researchers.

Luke, whose works include the giant Park and Slide installation on Bristol's Park Street and the Glass Microbiology artworks housed in museums of New York and London, will spend one day a week over the next eight months exploring the complexity and impact of brain related vision problems at the Bristol Vision Institute.    

The idea behind his artist in residency is to create something that will raise awareness about the nature of cerebral visual impairment (CVI), including the lived experience of affected children and their families, and the difference that treatments or environmental modifications can make. What that ‘something’ is will transpire during Luke's residency.

As someone who is colour-blind, Luke is personally and creatively fascinated by the processes of visual perception. 

"Over the years, many of my artworks have explored vision and how the mind interprets the things we’re looking at," said Luke, who is based in Bristol but has worked with academic and scientific institutions across the world for 20 years. "As an artist I’m keen to communicate how I see the world, but also to through my artwork, allow the public to be given the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

"A large amount of art uses optical illusion of one sort or another, whether it's through the use of trompe l'oeil in a painting or more recently with moving image (film). I find visual illusions fascinating as they demonstrate the processes and limitations of vision. What we see, also shows us how the brain works."

As part of his residency, Luke will meet and learn about some of the research underway at the University of Bristol and the BVI's clinical partner, the Bristol Eye Hospital.   He will work with Cathy Williams and other clinical researchers whose work aims to help children affected by CVI, including experts in genetics, in brain structure and function, and in MRI imaging.

Cathy, Reader in Paediatric Ophthalmology based with Bristol's Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, said: "We need more evidence to ensure that the right people get the right treatment. Luke's work will help achieve some of this as it will result in a spark of understanding and interest in brain related vision problems."

Professor David Bull, Director of Bristol Vision Institute, said: "Luke's residency in BVI will create a unique opportunity for us to communicate complex aspects of vision research, through art, to the wider public."

Luke’s residency is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and will run from January to August 2017.

Further information

The Bristol Vision Institute functions as a virtual research institute and has been highly successful in stimulating research interactions and collaborations. The reach of BVI extends across the region, with close ties to the Bristol Eye Hospital, UWE’s Machine Vision Group, Centre for Moving Image Research, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory as well as local universities.

Luke Jerram has worked internationally for 20 years on a number of extraordinary projects that often involve collaborations with academic and scientific organisations including the Wellcome Trust, Pirbright Institute, UK Space Agency, University of Salford, University of Sheffield, Phaeno Science Museum, Singapore ArtScience Museum, and Bath Science Park.  His multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects.

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education; today it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80 million a year. 

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