This year Oxford Biochemistry graduate, Briony Marshall, celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the momentous scientific discovery of DNA, but not in the conventional way expected of a science alumna.
Taking a rather unconventional route in pursuing a career in art, science graduate turned sculptor, traded in her laboratory for a studio, choosing to complete the ‘Sculptor in Residence’ programme organised by Pangolin at King’s Place in London.
The Positive: What inspired you to take the route you did?
Briony Marshall: Growing up I always had an interest in both science and art. I took a degree in Biochemistry as it was an exciting field where lots of new developments were changing the way we understood the chemistry of life. I never really saw myself as a scientist, and I continued doing art as a hobby. I tried a profession that straddled technology and design which was exciting for a while and taught me a lot, but in the end it was a compromise so I took the plunge to return to art school and follow my passion for making sculpture. Then, as my practice developed, my background in science naturally started coming through in the work.
The second sculptor to take up Pangolin London’s year-long residency, Marshall innovatively fuses together the seemingly contrasting arenas of sculpture and science to create humbling and remarkably novel insights into the fragility, magnificence and intricacy of human life.
‘Life Forming’, the first London-based solo exhibition of Marshall’s unique, science-inspired sculptures discernibly establishes the artist’s status as an excitingly original, emerging sculptor.
Marshall’s newest work, DNA: Helix of Life staggeringly and flawlessly represents the immense achievements of modern science. Fusing together the systematic procedure of science and the philosophical contemplations of a creative perspective on society, Marshall questions not only societal identity but personal identity in a profound and multifaceted sense. The piece itself is made first in wax and then cast is bronze, and consists of over 600 human figures joined at the hands and feet, each representing a different atom in the structural composition of the two metre high DNA model. Within the most fundamental structure of science, Marshall creates an innate sense of community and human dependency, revealing both society and the individual to be simultaneously the most base and complicated system in existence.
Marshall’s background in neuroscience and biology are clearly evident in her practice, deploying a strong sense of formalism and structure to her work, allowing the viewer to be presented simultaneously with the visual intensity of her sculptures and the intellectual depth of her philosophical considerations.
TP: What do you consider to be the fundamental aims and concerns of your work?
BM: I am often captivated by the harmony and elegance of biological systems and processes, and seek to understand them and their relevance to us as people in society. My molecular work uses a system of human figures to represent the atoms in various molecular structures and can give us insights into how individuals can come together in complex organisations. As a sculptor I am also concerned with how form develops in nature, from the big bang to embryogenesis, these acts of creation are mysterious yet fundamental to our world. I enjoy engaging with these topics on intellectual, emotional and visual levels and hope that this might likewise talk to others.