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“The Shape of Knowledge: Diagrams in Art and Science”



Dr. Michael Whittle

Dr. Michael Whittle

PhD, Sculpture, Kyoto City University​ of Arts


1030-1145, 11 Feb 2020


SWT 702, Shaw Tower, Shaw Campus, HKBU

Speaker's bio:

Dr. Michael WHITTLE qualified and trained as a Medical research biochemist before changing subjects to study fine art. During his MA at the Royal College of Art, he was awarded the 2004 'RCA - Daler Rowney drawing prize', and a scholarship to study at Kyoto City University of Arts, Japan’s oldest art school. He later received a prestigious Monbusho scholarship to return to Japan, where he wrote his award winning PhD thesis ‘Romantic Objectivism: diagrammatic thought in contemporary art’. The thesis proposed an entirely new field of diagrammatic fine art and helped establish deep philosophical, semiotic and aesthetic links between art and science. It was recently selected by MIT Press’ Leonardo Magazine for its top 10 list of research in art and science, 2018. Whittle exhibits and lectures internationally, and in 2018 made a five-week lecture tour of the UK, after which he was invited to give the 2018 ‘Pioneer Lecture’ at the London College of Communication, in celebration of pioneering research in visual art and design communication. 



Diagrams have helped to shape the way humans think from the Stone-age to the Information-age, making them one of the oldest, most common and varied types of image humans make. Early cave wall maps and star charts are now known to be at least five times older than the earliest writing, and yet the academic study of diagrams is only relatively new. 

This presentation offers a brief introduction to one of the most important and exciting interdisciplinary fields to have emerged in recent years, and considers what it is that makes these deceptively simple images such powerful tools for thought and communication in both the arts and sciences. Finally, I'll provide an overview some of my own work to map out the field of Diagrammatic Fine Art, and discuss examples of recent and future projects working with scientists, poets and mathematicians at institutions in Europe, Asia and the United States.