Synthesis on the Nursery Slopes and Turbulent Flow in the Studio.


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It was a cold, crazy day, complete with freak hail and sunbursts, when we (Lindsey Colbourne, Dr Jonathan Malarkey and myself) met at the barn in Nant Peris for our second “play day” for Pontio Synthesis project. The barn, though chilly, is an amazing space, housing the collection from Lindsey’s Digging Down project, as well as some fabulous new marble pieces that she has been working on. The plan was a loose one; to use our new knowledge of flow patterns to inform our marble run design, and play with some different materials on the lower slopes of the mountain, testing and experimenting for the 3rd of July. It began awkwardly, for me at least. It was so different from our lab visit, where Jonathan had been so erudite and generous. In contrast, I felt a real inability to verbalise my artistic practice, or explain anything. Of course, once we relaxed and started playing with marbles, self-consciousness disappeared and we found ourselves on the slopes, in the freezing wind, running marbles down pipes and slates, playing with angles and vortices. This, “the process” is the pay off of making art for me. The “flow” where the hours become meaningless, and each twist and turn makes a new pattern and a new connection. I think it’s so hard to verbalise because it is such an individual thing. As the three of us worked on the slopes, we each approached the same problem and the same materials in a very different way. The art of collaboration will be for all the approaches to join into a single flow, just as individual modules of a marble run can be linked together to make a complete system.


We made some good progress and some good discoveries and lessons. One thing we learned unequivocally is that marbles do not behave like liquids in a flow, nor do they behave like particles in liquid in a flow. In fact, marbles are fabulously anarchic. However, marbles can be made to behave in a way that mimics flow patterns by making adjustments to their route, trying to control angles, momentum, velocity and the transference of force ie bounce! As well as creating features that force them into patterns such as laminar and turbulent flow, and of course, vortices!

In the following days my head was buzzing with ideas of how to make marbles move like turbulent flow, to twist and turn but still keep going, so i began carving a marble landscape in plaster to see where they would go.


As the week went on, we started to tentatively order a few materials, ready for our next play session, this time at TOGYG. It’s reaching the point of the project where too much information could be seen as spoilers for the main event….but here are some sneaky peeks of what we got up to.