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Bringing science to the streets

Natasha Watson's work, entitled 'The start of greener buildings'

Natasha Watson's work, entitled 'The start of greener buildings'

Blake Kendrick's work, entitled 'Organised thought: chaos to clarity'

Blake Kendrick's work, entitled 'Organised thought: chaos to clarity'

Richard Craig's work, entitled 'Hidden threats'

Richard Craig's work, entitled 'Hidden threats'

Press release issued: 23 August 2012

Complicated concepts from the world of engineering, nanoscience and chemistry have been communicated on canvas thanks to postgraduate students from the University of Bristol who contributed to the huge success of See No Evil – the UK’s largest permanent street art project.

Ten PhD and EngD students joined 40 of the world’s most prolific street artists as part of the diverse art project, which attracted 50,000 visitors to the city centre.

The students not only spray-painted on large boards but also transformed a car in a bid to express the themes and ideas behind their research, translating science and engineering concepts into street art.

Their work was overseen by Bristol-based contemporary artist Dan Petley, whose street art alter ego is Old Master. Members of the public, of all ages, stopped to watch as their work took shape and the car was transformed from a plain VW Polo into a work of art.

Organisers estimate more than 20,000 poured into Nelson Street during Saturday daytime alone for the urban art festival, during which the biggest permanent art installation in the world was created.

Natasha Watson, a postgraduate research engineer from the Industrial Doctorate Centre in Systems, used See No Evil as an opportunity to communicate the benefits of using straw bales, earth and hemp as building materials as opposed to steel and concrete. Her artistic skills showed how such natural materials can buffer changes in internal temperature and moisture, making the building feel more comfortable.

She said: “It was a privilege to be a part of See No Evil 2012 and showcase our research amongst the amazing street artists that were there.  I hadn't planned my piece at all, riskily leaving it until I actually had to paint. I got a great boost of confidence when I just let my intuition take over and produce something that I'm really proud of.

“The public were amazing as well. We even got requests for a bike and a wheelchair to be spray painted.  It was a great experience because not only did the public discover that we engineers and scientists had creative sides, but I think we discovered it within ourselves as well.”

See No Evil was organised with the support of the Arts Council England, London 2012 Festival, Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol. It was part of the London 2012 Festival, a summer-long arts festival throughout the country to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

David Alder, Director of Marketing and Communications at the University of Bristol, said: "See No Evil is a hugely important festival for Bristol and it consistently attracts global attention. I am very pleased that we have not only supported the festival behind the scenes, but that our students have also been actively involved."

The students have previously worked with Dan Petley on a similar project called the Arts Challenge, which saw them produce work which was shown at Discover - the University of Bristol’s public celebration of its research.

Funding for the University’s project has come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.

Further information

The students taking part were from Bristol University’s Industrial Doctorate Centre in Systems, the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences, Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science Doctoral Training Centre and the Bristol Chemical Synthesis Doctoral Training Centre. They are:
  • Liam Boyd
  • Natasha Watson
  • Blake Kendrick
  • Richard Craig
  • David Wilby
  • Sara Carreira
  • Laura Rush
  • Sofia Papadouli
  • Laura Edwards
  • Ettie Eyre

Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) are a bold new approach to training PhD students and EngD research engineers, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. Bristol University has five such centres, all involving significant industrial collaboration in environmental science and technologies.

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