Science and Art | Two sides of the same coin

Guest Post by Dominic Fondé, Freelance artist

Dominic holding up a Pi Dish featuring the number Pi to several hundred decimal places

An artist and a scientist are really not all that different.

While a scientist runs experiments repeatedly in order to ascertain that the results will be the same every time and not simply due to chance, an artist will make dozens of sketches, perhaps take photographs or even build models, refining an idea until it is expressed clearly, succinctly and exactly the way he or she wants it to be.

Both an artist and scientist will observe natural laws and derive conclusions from what they see. The story goes that Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree and so deduced the laws of gravity. Similarly, the renaissance artists, observing how objects at a distance become apparently smaller, deduced the laws of perspective.

Perspective was to revolutionise painting in the 14th century allowing an artist to create realistic images in which light, shade and distance could all be depicted naturally and in accordance with what was observable in nature.

Da Vinci may be the quintessential artist or scientist. Holding an insatiable appetite for knowledge, his notebooks explore hundreds of ideas and show how his observations of natural laws fed into his art.

His research into anatomy allowed him to produce paintings of incredible life and vitality. At the same time he was much sought after as an architect and inventor. Of course not every artist is as rigorous in their methodology as Da Vinci.

It is perfectly acceptable for an artist to operate via instinct or without a formal plan, and no doubt there are plenty of scientists that are sloppy when it comes to compiling their data. This may be the distinction between a good or a bad artist or a good or bad scientist but either way what both do, is assimilate information and use it to say something about the world we live in.

As time has progressed, and technology and science have increased in sophistication, so too has art. It is not simply enough for art to talk about physical manifestations of light and shade anymore.

Art has increasingly become adept at talking about emotional states, abstract and philosophical ideas. Science meanwhile has become so complex, that there are fields of research that are understandable only by a select few.

It may be for this reason that art and science are now seen as increasingly divergent, yet I still maintain that they are in fact two sides of the same coin. How so? Both fields gather data and use it to add to the understanding of our world.

Despite this, it has always been harder to come to a definition of art than science. Art encompasses many disparate ideas and as it is intended to stimulate our emotions, it often communicates in a highly subjective manner.

This is the major difference between art and science. Science depends on facts that can be objectively verified whereas art deals with thoughts and emotions which are by nature personal and changeable.

On a more direct connection with science, glass is a truly remarkable material. It has shaped our modern world in an almost unimaginable number of ways. Glass is ubiquitous as a building material. Every room has glass light bulbs in it and we have kitchens full of drinking glasses and bottles. Glass even has applications in electronics.

The creation of the glass lens has become of particular interest to me. I trained as a glassblower in the UK and spent many years working in small studios making vases, goblets and plates. At the same time, I was developing my skills as a glass engraver.

I would cover the surfaces of glass vases and plates with short stories. The stories explored the idea that glass vessels hold thoughts and emotions as easily as they hold flowers or water. It is this act of holding emotion that is more important than the actual flowers themselves.

At present, I am developing ideas for artworks based on the creation of microscope lenses similar to those used by Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th Century. While I do not know exactly what those artworks will look like, I am certain the process of research and experimentation will yield some interesting results.

Dominic Fondé is a freelance artist living and working in Singapore. He specialises in glass engraving, creating artworks for private clients and gallery sale. He also teaches regular classes in glass art and will present a talk at the Singapore Science Centre, Science Café titled, “The World without Glass” on 31 May 2011. To find out more about Dominic and his artwork, please email him at

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