This lab studies the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which goes through an extraordinary metamorphosis as it develops.
Upon hatching, the fly has a pair of almost crystalline compound eyes, through which visual information is transmitted to the central brain. This area of the brain contains a multitude of nerve cells (or neurons), whose extensions are arranged in a beautifully regular pattern of columns and layers.
The scientists are investigating how neural networks develop to form connections within the optic lobe. They hope that understanding how these fundamental steps are coordinated within a growing brain may provide insights into how disorders such as autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia arise in humans.
Helen not only became captivated by the transformations being studied by the lab but also the limitations of language and imagery in articulating these phenomena. Working closely with Iris, she created tactile wax models to support her spatial understanding of the changes that occur during metamorphosis. She combined photographs of these models with acrylic, lights and imagery drawn from nature to create her final piece, which is suspended from the ceiling of the Gallery. Helen also worked with Iris to create a film that captures the physical gestures relied upon by the scientist when describing complex and intricate developmental processes.
The resulting commission is an investigation into the expansion and movement of patterns in time.
Random precision_Countless intimate acts
Helen Pynor, 2017
One part of the installation, acrylic, digital photography, lights, stainless steel - suspended from the ceiling of the gallery.
Development of the Visual Circuit of Drosophila melanogaster in Three Acts: Larvae I; Pupae I; Pupae II
Helen Pynor, Iris Salecker, Ben Gilbert, 2017
Still photographs from the film.
Transforming Connections: In Conversation
Helen Pynor invited Iris Salecker and Emma Powell to visit her studio whilst she developed the final artwork. Listen to their response and reflections on the collaboration.
Audio interview produced by Ellie Mackay.