Art & Film 2023

The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness is the venue to two explorations into links between mathematics and art on Saturday 9 September.

In the morning the link is through the work of a remarkable book from 1917 that continues to reverberate today. On Growth and Form by D’Arcy Thompson inspired various artists in the Pier’s permanent collection, among them Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, and it inspired other artists whose work is featured in a visiting exhibition.

In the afternoon we look at three anniversaries that weave together the lives of a Scottish mathematician and two Scottish women painters.

We celebrate the 75th birthday of the Scottish composer Eddie McGuire with three films that provide the first public performance of all five of his astronomy-inspired compositions together in a superb combination of music and images, and stories as well.

And we travel to Stronsay in a new specially-made film that links Orkney past and present with the story of the ages of ice and their aftermath.


September 9 → 10:30 am12:30 pm

Pier Arts Centre, Stromness Many of the artists in the Pier’s permanent collection, including Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, were deeply influenced by a remarkable book written by a remarkable man. D’Arcy Thompson was Professor of Natural History at University College Dundee and the University of St Andrews, but had wide-ranging interests including mathematics, art, philosophy and the classics. His 1917


September 9 → 2:00 pm3:30 pm

Science, mathematics and art come together to celebrate three anniversaries. The Scottish mathematician Hugh Blackburn. who invented the double pendulum that produces a pattern-drawing Harmonograph, was born 200 years ago. So was his wife, the talented painter and ornithological illustrator Jemima Blackburn, a favourite cousin of the physicist James Clerk Maxwell. She was related through her mother to the first major Scottish woman portrait painter, Katherine Read, born a century earlier, in 1723. Like her Orcadian friend, the engraver Sir Robert Strange, Katherine Read spent part of her career as a Jacobite in exile in Paris and Rome. Art historian Prof. Frances Fowle is joined by mathematics historian Dr Isobel Falconer to explore these richly colourful lives and times.


September 9 → 8:00 pm9:30 pm

Scottish composer Eddie McGuire’s five astronomy-inspired pieces of music have never been played before as a complete series. Tonight, to celebrate his 75th birthday, you can hear them together, with astronomer Dr Anne-Marie Heijmans of St Andrews University joining him in conversation. The music comes in three films specially recorded by musicians from the University, including trumpeter Bede Williams and members of the Wallace Collection. First comes the film Five Stars in Auriga, featuring Big Bang, Orbit, and Auriga where each instrument represents a star in the constellation. The pieces of music are interwoven with stories from the Scottish Borders of lives connected by astronomy and space. Then after a short break come Earthrise (symphonic poem for brass band) and Symphonies of Galaxies. Afterwards you can sit back with Orkney traditional musicians celebrating the occasion.


September 11 → 10:00 am11:00 am

Just 20,000 years ago, Orkney was covered by a kilometre of ice, part of a huge mass that reached out beyond Scotland. Huge glaciers were sometimes in slow motion, and traces of their paths can still be seen today in the scrubbed sides of some of Orkney’s hills. Over the years, geologists such as the great Victorians Ben Peach and John Horne have found evidence of rocks carried by the glaciers, and in a new film by Selena Kuzman, Dr John Flett Brown and Dr Adrian Hall follow in their footsteps – and find some rocks that have travelled a long distance to reach Orkney.

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