The Sketchbook and the Collider is an on-going collaboration with Prof Kostas Nikolopoulos from the particle physics group at University Birmingham and evolves from my residency at the University in 2018 culminating in the exhibition “The sketchbook and the Collider,” at the University and subsequent Arts Council funded exhibition at the Library of Birmingham entitled “Collision Event” in 2019.

The work takes as its starting point the search for equivalents between the primary artistic language of drawing and the elementary particles and their interactions.

It comprises three main elements: The search for an intimate connection between pure visual language and elemental particle characteristics and interactions. Development of the use of moving image work to explore actual movement and interaction in a drawing context equivalent to the interaction of particles and finally it’s culmination in the development of performative pieces that involve “live” drawing and the cooperation, participation and “interaction” of artists, scientists and members of the public.






The artist – Ian Andrews

Andrews has a diverse practice that has involved painting, drawing, sculpture and film, often presented in sprawling installations. Reduced concentrated versions exist as a series of A3 hand-drawn books on tissue paper often over 50 pages long.

Consistent themes involve the primacy of drawing and the importance of “networks structures” in a variety of contexts. Whether neuronal networks that create thoughts in the brain, or the quantum “spin” networks of subatomic structures.

In 2018 he completed a life-changing residency at the University of Birmingham working with Prof.Nikolopoulos of the Particle Physics group that has resulted in a re-examination of the basic visual language of drawing and an extremely focused practice


The physicist – Professor Kostas Nikolopoulos 

An experimental particle physicist at the University of Birmingham, he was strongly involved in the Higgs boson discovery at CERN in 2012. He led a group of 80 physicists searching for Higgs decays in four- lepton events.

He received the 2019 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the UK for his leadership and personal contributions.

He aspires to further our understanding of mass generation for matter and is committed to inspiring a new generation of scientists and citizens through cross-disciplinary collaboration and outreach activities.


Despite obvious differences the specialisms of fine art and particle physics are both concerned with making the invisible visible.

Scientific developments have seen the “everyday” dissolve into sub-atomic interactions only accessible by examining traces left in an enabling medium in a detector. A process mirrored by the artist expressing ideas and emotions through marks made and materials manipulated. Taking the same journey from something hidden to something revealed.

Indeed the physicist’s relationship to their detectors has striking parallels with the relationship of the artist to their media and methods.

 “Detectors are really the way that physicists express themselves, to say something that you have in your guts. In the case of painters, it’s painting with sculptors, its sculpture and in the case of the experimental physicist its detectors! The detector is the image of the guy who designed it.”

 Carlo Rubbia, particle physicist and inventor, 1989.

The work compares and contrasts the material cultures surrounding the two disciplines and focuses on a piece of essential equipment in each case, the sketchbook and the most advanced form of detector, the particle collider.

The sketchbook and the collider are arenas where different elements are brought together, sometimes violently! They both involve “active processes” that create and examine the visible traces of hidden interactions to determine if something significant has happened to change the way we understand the world around us.

The title “collision event” is the term given by physicists to particles colliding and in the context of the exhibition refers to the different specialisms coming together.

Referring to Paul Klee’s Bauhaus lecture notes published as “The thinking Eye”, the mechanics of making a drawing are exposed and equivalents sought between the particle characteristics of spin, mass and charge and the graphic elements of point, line and shape.

This creates an intimate connection between the visual language of drawing, the basic artistic activity and the interaction of elemental particles that create the universe and us.