Liquid fireworks

It’s nearly that time again.. and some people have already started fireworks around here. These are some inksplosion pictures I took a few days back – they reminded me of firework colours and patterns, and the glow they make in the dark sky. ‘Feather flurry’ reminded me a little of a catherine wheel with its angled trails.


Feather flurry


Bubbleglow in the sky


Bubbleglow in the sky development


After the flow has gone …

Yesterday in the lab, I arranged some pools of ink, turned off the flow and looked at how the ink arranged itself in a small residual amount of water. Particles suspended in the ink were deposited on the glass surface, and the patterns were reminiscent of aerial views of rivers and estuaries. The branching patterns also looked like trees and leaves.


Sedimentary foliage

I was reminded of my ink on paper work, where the ink would often similar residual patterns as it dried, as in the example below called ‘The Deep Winds rising’.


‘Deep winds rising’ like underwater currents passing through sea plants

Recently I have been looking for a way of visualizing vortices in one of the larger tanks in the lab – but have not quite got there, partly I think because the flow may be a little choppy. One of my colleagues suggested a peristaltic pump as being a good source of laminar flow, so I will try that soon when the equipment is ready.

Meanwhile, here are a few vortices within the surface tension-driven flow I tried in the lab yesterday:


‘Mushroom vortex’


‘Yin and Yang’

Creating time-rich images and watching the gaps

A friend of mine from Flickr asked me recently what I meant by the phrase “time-rich image” … here’s a short explanation and some examples.


‘Cosmic Aqua Blur’

I’ve always been concerned that my images should represent the passing of time in some way, and this concern is reflected in the name I chose for my work “chronoscapes”. Time may be represented in many ways – in photography, motion blur will indicate the passing of time, or the presence of similar forms at different stages. Both these indications of time can be seen in the image below, ‘Cosmic Aqua Blur’, with its streaks of gold particles moving at fast speeds, and ‘younger’ red/gold ink circles which have not yet begun to progress outwards.

The image below, ‘Go Supernova’ also features motion blur, this time contrasted with relatively sharp red lines at the central stagnation point. The relative speeds of flow are apparent.


‘Go Supernova’

I will be posting more on this soon; I find it a really interesting topic.

The behaviour of ink always continues to surprise me – it never does quite what I expect! I have noticed in the lab recently that when it flows slowly over plastic, it leaves strangely shaped gaps which then sometimes become islands. I wonder if this is something to do with the surface tension properties of the ink. Here are a couple of examples; the second of which has the texture of molten glass.


hexagonal plant form


‘Molten flow’

Insights into the inside

Last week I went along to the private view of the ‘Before the Crash’ exhibition mentioned below, and learned some fascinating facts about how it’s possible by scanning to reveal and record the inner surfaces of objects. I wondered whether it was then possible to produce objects based on the scans which are ‘inverse’ – whose insides are outside and vice versa – will have to read about this. Meanwhile, it got me thinking about topology, and about a picture I made recently where surfaces seemed to pass over and under each other in an illogical way; I called it ‘Mobius trip’ and it’s made with light and glass:


what is inside; what is outside; what is in front of what; the topologistics are baffling

Back in the University lab, the quest to capture vortices proceeds – I tried visualizing them as flow went round a cylinder with a strip light reflection. I liked the way the reflection of the metal grid on the light bent in the water.


neon striplight reflection – the cylinder is on the extreme left of the image

Here is a more straightforward visualization with ink taking up ring forms:


And here are a couple of screenshots taken from movies I made yesterday using perspex sheets and fluids of different viscosities travelling between them:


‘Bubble escape’


‘Nouveau Art Nouveau’

I love the idea of old art forms being re-interpreted in new terms, and these plant-like forms reminded me very much of one of my favourite artistic movements, Art Nouveau, with its stylized flowers and buds.

Solar echoes

I just came across this image of glass and light which I photographed a few days ago. Its repeated shapes put me in mind of shoals of fish cruising the bottom of the sea. The repeated shapes reflect the process by which the image was made.


Organic forms captured in full sunlight

New exhibition of scientific art

Simpleware Ltd. is organizing an exhibition of art based on scientific phenomena as part of the European project “Immersion in the Science World through Arts” (ISWA). I am delighted to have some work on show there. Below are details of the exhibition:


*Venue: Exeter Castle, Castle Street, EX3 4PU, Exeter *

*Dates: October 15-20, 2011 *

Opening times: 11am to 7pm

Elusive vortices and patterning bubbles

One of my projects during my residency at Exeter University will be to create an artistic collection of flow visualization, inspired by Milton Van Dyke’s ‘An Album of Fluid Motion’. This week, thanks to my colleagues, I’m closer to understanding how vortices are created with flow around a cylinder – something I wanted to photograph. Depth of water, speed of flow, size of cylinder – all these play a part. I am hoping to make a 3D image which combines the flow at the bottom of the tank with the vortices forming above – still haven’t quite got there, but here are the results so far:


ink forming patterns at the bottom


3D patterning: swirling red ink beginning to do the vortex thing


My work with ink and glycerol travelling within perspex sheets continues to reveal interesting features. I’m always keen to find new sources of tracks and trails, and air bubbles can create streaks like comet tails as they course through the ink. The bubbles may also form small islands around which the ink flows. Here are a couple of examples:


Comets coming down from the top


Diversions around bubble islands

Instability in the sink

Yesterday at the lab I was intrigued to find regular patterning of ink in the most unexpected places – at the sink, whilst cleaning up between experiments using perspex sheets. Luckily my camera was still close by .. here are a couple of examples:


‘Making tiny waves’ – I think this patterning is called Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability – will check with those who know later on this week!


Ink dropping from a height and forming regular patterning

These striped patterns seemed remarkably well-defined and stable, like marbling.

Below are some natural textures formed using perspex:




Ferns and fronds


A slice of agate

Tracking the ghosts and the slow transformations

I have been using a method of flow visualization where a slow release of ink along the bottom of the channel allows patterns to build up over time. These patterns are remarkably stable, and even remain for several seconds after the source of the patterning, such as the aerofoil shape, is removed. We then have a ghostly reminder of what was there. The pattern then begins to transform as the steady stream of regular ink pulls the curves into long thin lines. I have taken sequences of this process.

This kind of flow visualization buys me some time – it allows me to make ‘time-rich’ images, which I think are the most interesting of all. The example below, called ‘Cosmic impressions’, is a sequence following the path of ink around a shape which is then removed in the second frame; its patterning becomes supplanted by that of the regular stream of ink (third frame). For me, this sequences has echoes of human existence, where a physical, tangible presence may leave an impression after its removal (or death), which gradually becomes transformed by the new patterning brought by the passing of time. We see this process on a larger scale too – cosmic events involving planets or asteroids leave their impression or pattern long after the object itself has passed through, and these patterns are then modified by subsequent sets of patterning … indeed, the appearance of the whole universe can be explained as a sequence of superimposed patterns.


‘Cosmic impressions I’ Life, colour, tangible presence


‘Cosmic impressions II’ The ghost of a tangible form


‘Cosmic impressions III’ Integration with surroundings