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Art with human like skin

Artist Gurpran Rau and Curator Anna Dempster exhibit

Cambridge Arts Round Up Episode 44  August 2021

In this edition Simon Bertin discovers the remarkable artwork of Gurpran Rau using the encaustic method from the ancient world at Artspace 57 with curator Anna Dempster in an exhibition entitled Under the Skin; Artist exhibiting at Motion Sickness collective kick start the action in the city with Eleanor Breeze; We look at Cows about Cambridge public artwork bonanza; and Artist Joe Fenwick-Wilson talks about his career and the role skateboarding is now taking up in arts culture.”

Gurpran Rau introduces her work

My work investigates, at a molecular level, the internal essence shared by all beings: the genetic blueprint of humanity. In these hybrid works I combine digital print, pigment, collage and encaustic media. Genetic codes and archetypal forms such as circles and knots are embedded in layers over digital portraits, reflecting our shared genetic inheritance. They represent hidden codes, complex structures, and histories that lie beneath the surface of our skin. I manipulate the wax to form irregularities and imperfections, conveying the impression of human skin and binding membranes. The faces in my art represent our diverse population and its varied ‘phenotypes’. They celebrate the beauty of difference, but, like a photographic negative, reference medical x-rays, where perception is blurred – emphasizing our beneath-the-skin similarities.

Some of these pieces focus on the DNA knot. Knots take part in genetic replication and transcription and are thus essential to the reproduction of our species. Since these knots are almost exact replicas of their mathematical cousins, I am intrigued by their similar configurations, both topologically and geometrically. I perceive them as a metaphor for links that tie all of humanity together. Their circular and chain-like formations also suggest the idea of continuity and infinity. Every living being on this planet is linked in the great web of life; we are inevitably and inescapably related.

My body of work acknowledges the fact that all human DNA is 99.9 percent identical. This unifying truth is the cumulative, co-operative product of scientific endeavor across all differences – “race” has no meaning in the lexicon of our genetic code.   

 Gurpran Rau, Cambridge 2021

ARTSPACE57 exhibitions showcase truly exceptional talent which is grounded on the twin pillars of skill and ingenuity. We believe that for art to be captivating it needs to display a dedication to experimentation and creativity while being rooted in a cultural tradition and built on expertise and experience.

Our exhibitions explore themes that translate across disciplines and stimulate creative thinking and debate. We are committed to making a link between art and science, as scientists and artists are often fascinated by the same phenomenon, pre-occupied with similar fundamental questions about the nature of things and challenged by the same complex dilemmas. There are few places better to explore the relationships between art and science than in the city of Cambridge, UK, known both for its world class university and as a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. We aim to curate a space where art and science not only collide but fuse to generate synergies, complementarities and discoveries. In this aim, we have long-term support from Cambridge Systems Associates, an innovative company which finds solutions by drawing on interdisciplinary research with a healthy disregard for traditional boundaries.

ArtSpace57 has been active since 2015, with pop-up exhibitions and seminars in our city centre venue – reputedly the first Bauhaus building in Cambridge – nestled in Portugal Place, a medieval lane adjacent to St. Clements Church just off Bridge street. 

We strive to provide a space for exhibitions which promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding. We have worked with individuals and charities which support emerging artists and enable a platform for diverse and international work to be seen in Cambridge contributing to a more multi-faceted cultural narrative. We strive to work with partners from across disciplines, locally and internationally who share our vision to enable collaboration and engagement with ideas, art and culture.

Dr. Anna M. Dempster, Director & Curator



Artist Joe Fenwick Wilson on Cambridge arts scene

Artist Joe Fenwick-Wilson on Cambridge’s current arts scene.

Joe Fenwick-Wilson was born in 1993 in Rugby, Warwickshire. After many years as an outside artist, he went to study fine art at the prestigious Falmouth University. He has lived in different places across England, but is now based in Cambridgeshire where he has his studio at St Barnabas Press (Cambridge).

His paintings and drawings are inspired by the mundaneness of happenings and objects from the day to day. He often uses repetition as he likes to push drawing until it becomes as mechanical as writing one’s name. Also inspired by patterns and rituals, Joe’s work celebrates the uniqueness and strangeness of the normal. He attempts to create an entrance to his work through identifiable objects and actions; this allows the viewer to reflect on their own rituals and relationships with the forgettable yet important things in their lives.

The skateboarding movement in Cambridge attempts to be completely all encompassing. In the almost 2 years that I have been here I have met some incredible people. A skateboard community is about creativity, progression and friendship and has the potential to be a hub for people with talents across the spectrum. A community like this needs a place to progress, unfortunately in Cambridge there is a lack of funding to help the community grow. There is no skate shop, which is ridiculous when you look at the size of the skate scene. There is no state of the art park in a central location and there is no where to go in the winter months.

On top of this, when people have built DIY spots in unused locations out of desperation, they have been torn down. I feel as though is important to nurture all forms of learning, whether it is in sports or the arts. Cambridge council should take advice from collectives like ‘Cam Skate’ on how to move forward with these things in the future. Skateboarding is a shared art form and community that teaches its participants incomparable lessons about failure, success, passion and hard work and I believe strongly that it shouldn’t be ignored.

Dinosaurs take their prey at Grande arcade

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Cambridges New Ferris wheel is best taken with champagne….


Artist Eleanor Breeze presents Motion Sickness at Petty Cury…..



Listen to the podcast Arts Round Up Episode 44

Joe Fenwick-Wilson’s work below

Cows about Cambridge public Artwork scheme

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