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6-Bit Message from Beyond the Great Divide

6-Bit Message from Beyond the Great Divide


The painting has been decoded! Congratulations to James Bastow at Kwartzlab who posted a detailed analysis of the encoding scheme used in the painting. If you have never heard of kwartzlab it’s Waterloo Region’s makerspace— a working space dedicated to makers of all muses— including but definitely not limited to 3-D rapid prototyping, hand-made clocks and electronics design and education.


In 2011 the London Arts Council approached local artists with an opportunity to collaborate with some of Canada’s leading epigenetic scientists to create a collaborative art exhibition as part of the Epigenetics, Eh! conference.

In the nature of true collaboration, the scientists had a desire to interact with the artists not only to share their experience and insights into the scientific method, but also to discover parallels and learn from the artistic process. At heart the two worlds are not as dissimilar as you may expect, both being intellectual pursuits that attempt to discover and assign meaning to a seemingly inscrutable universe.

As part of the collaboration, the art and artists will be presented alongside the scientific presentations at the conferences poster sessions. Artists and scientists will mingle to discuss their work and learn from each other. All of the participating artists have ben asked to provide abstracts regarding the work which will be included in the official conference proceedings.

If you would like to learn more about how this painting was created you can check out this article for a step-by-step exposition of the process.

I’m not used to interpreting my work, but in case you’re interested, here’s the full text of my abstract:

6-bit Message from Beyond the Great Divide

The search for meaning in an inscrutable universe is central to both the artistic and scientific domains. Artists and scientists both use dedicated technologies to explore, discover and assign a meaningful conceptual framework to their observations of the world that surrounds them.

My own artistic process relies heavily on emergence, experimenting on the canvas by setting up a sequential series of initial conditions and then guiding physical processes that involve physical interaction between the media, water and surface to reveal the final image. The marks that make up the details in the image are often not explicitly made, but are the emergent product of global interactions with the image as a whole.

My piece, while superficially a traditional landscape, is an image that is composed of several scales, both visually and conceptually that exist in a superposition and constitute a meaning space that rewards investigation. Symbolically, the visual forms are a representation of an epigenetic message that exists simultaneously at human, geographic and microscopic scales.

The tree line and it’s reflection in the water is a macroscopic representation of the DNA backbone. The incised double line and circular textures are a symbolic representation of an electron micrograph of the histone complexes and chromatin strand often referred to as “beads on a string.” This incised line demarcates a boundary condition that separates the external from the internal, the earth from the sky.

The seemingly random absence of the trees or their reflections within the rigidly regular spacing is an encoding system which has been explicitly transcribed into the holes in the surface which represent a formalized notation system for the epigenetic message. In an Emersonian fashion, the random marks within the landscape are physical representation of spiritual facts which constitute a message to the observer if they are able to decode the alphabet.

The diagrammatic legend is the key to the message that is encoded within the landscape. It denotes the read order of the bits that constitute a codon within the genetic model and the start and stop markers of the entire “gene.” A primer illustrates the first ten binary numbers.

When you take the time to contemplate nature, to take in the open expanse of your surroundings, or attend to small details, the process is an interactive one which creates an awareness that places your observation at the centre of your experience. The “landscape” exists as a mental model which includes the observer as a fundamental part of the landscape. This sense of connection is not just an acknowledgement of the obvious physical connection, but is a deeply emergent experience that leads to a unified conception that the observer is a part of the landscape— intimately connected in both a spiritual and intellectual sense— and because of this unseverable connection the continued existence of both the landscape and the observer is reliant on the acceptance of our responsibility for it.

I invite you to explore this landscape and decode the message from beyond the great divide.

acrylic on wood panel

This painting is part of the City of London’s permanent collection.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 at 10:56 am and is filed under Non-Series, Paintings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.