Face of Science

Arts and Agriculture 

Canola roots, the research project got off to an interesting start as the discussion of growing heads is not a usual conversation in the Charles Sturt University’s School of Agriculture and Wine Sciences. Actually my first call was at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (an alliance between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) who kindly introduced me to Dr Sergio Moroni and Dr John Harper. My research interests in agriculture and crops science began in earlier days as a science-art fellow at CSIRO, especially working on projects such as StellrScope and Visualising Insects, although working with plants particularly Orchids has a deep fascination for me.

Comparing Wheat Roots, Photograph by Professor Eleanor Gates-Stuart

Collaborating with Sergio is an interesting partnership, mentor-mentee and visa versa as we both ventured into each other’s discipline field with all the excitement, reservation, laughter and learning with the aim of promoting innovation in science (plant roots) and creating art informed by science (growing-likeness). These works are not for viewing just yet, partly to do with cultivating the artworks and also whilst conducting several experiments and collating the results in the series. For now the process has been one of knowledge exchange, COVID-19 has interrupted much of the experimentation adapting to make-shift studio-laboratory arrangement off-campus although communication has been excellent and so is working with an industry partner in designing materials.

Image: 'Conectedness', edited from Canola Roots photograph by Dr Sergio Moroni and Canola Plant Cast by Dr Eleanor Gates-Stuart
‘Connectedness’, edited from Canola roots photograph by Dr Sergio Moroni and cast by Professor Eleanor Gates-Stuart

Prior to working on Canola Roots, an extensive project was undertaken on soil mix and fast growing seeds, mapping scatter zones and documenting surface changes.

'Scatter Zones' - Mapping growth, Professor Eleanor Gates-Stuart
‘Scatter Zones’ – Mapping growth, Professor Eleanor Gates-Stuart

Based at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga Campus is extraordinary as the opportunity to wonder across campus visiting the various research centres, Faculty labs and creative studios, one minute being amongst the rural crops to the next using motion capture and VR technologies. Specialising in interdisciplinary research has its advantages, especially for extended global reach and maintain projects internationally, with colleagues at CSU it is exciting to be leading the Extended Research Collaborative and growing our early career researchers, networked nationally.

The current artworks will hopefully be published soon with more news about collaborating with Dr Sergio Moroni. Meanwhile I will keep posting updates (social media) and launching the Portrait Institute. Please do contact me if you would like to know more about the research.

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