By Tanja

One of the many events held this year as part of the National Science Week was a collaborative project between scientists and artists. It was called Co-Lab: Science meets Street Art, and it is exactly what it sounds like: scientists and artists pair up, scientists have to explain their project in human terms and artists have to then paint their view of that project on a wall. Exciting, right?! I thought so too.

I applied for this event in late June this year and got teamed up with a talented artist. PAW is originally from Philippines and he is currently studying interior design here in Canberra. He received my application one day and had to read through several pages (easy?) of my layman description of my project.

He sent me his first sketch and luckily included a one sentence description of what it represented. I absolutely loved it from the start. It was abstract. It was quirky. It was weird. It was a very different perspective on my whole project. And because it was all of that I loved it instantly. We decided to meet in person to discuss details. Paw learned heaps of seismology in just one hour, he asked good questions, I put some sketches down on the paper, he put some prettier sketches down on the paper and together we came up with a final sketch for the art. It involved minimal changes to the original sketch he sent, mainly making Paw’s signature eye drawing, appearing in all of his art, larger – to act as the inner core – the main character of my research. He said which colours he would like to use, I was more than happy with that and the project was on.

And so on Saturday, the 13th of August, we were blessed with an absolute beauty of a day and all the artists and scientists involved in this project met at a black-painted wall just in front of the Kingston Markets. Over a couple of hours artists painted the projects they were assigned.

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Art! Science! All happening at once and everyone hard at work.

 

I was there for only two hours, looking at everyone’s work, and chatting with people, and looking over to Paw’s work approximately every 10 mins. And approximately every 10 mins his part of the wall looked different – he works fast and with ease.

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PAW doing what he does best.

 

The final product you can see below, with the accompanying description that was on display on the day.

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Artist impression of the inner core.

 

 

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The Earth’s inner core is a big ball of iron and nickel and it rests more than 5000km deep beneath our feet. Since we can’t see it, we study the earthquake waves that have passed through it to map how the structure material at different locations within the inner core eats up the waves’ energy. This is similar to using an X-ray to look inside your own body, but instead of gamma rays we use rays of waves formed by large and deep earthquakes. These waves are generated by an earthquake on one side of the globe and often recorded on the other side of the globe.

Paw depicted this perfectly by showing a wave going into the Earth, interacting with the core and exiting somewhere else… in a place thousands of kilometers away, smaller and misshapen, and bringing with it all the information we need in the research. Collaborating with Paw was refreshing, and seeing the artwork emerge through various sketches was nothing short of amazing. It captured the complexity of the research brilliantly yet simply.

 

 

And thus my project is immortalized on a wall 🙂 Thank you Paw, it was an absolute pleasure working with you.

I encourage you all to head down to Kingston and look at all the art – it looked amazing in the making. Don’t worry – the wall is hard to miss, it’s pretty colourful! It is potentially the most beautiful and scientific wall in Kingston.

You can check out more beautiful images on the CoLab’s official page and their Instagram.