Portraits of thought: Transfiguring the diagrams of science

Michael Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


As a practicing artist with a background in biomedical science, my current field of specialization is in diagrammatology, the interdisciplinary study of diagrams. Diagrams are one of our most fundamental modes of knowledge creation and communication, and arguably the most common and most varied type of drawings humans make. They are also the primary visual language of science, and the time I spent practicing to draw and manipulate diagrammatic images came to provide lasting semiotic bridges between science and art, following my transition from laboratory to studio.

In order to examine these connections more closely, this article considers the diagrammatic artwork Model for the Origins of Movement, which was created using a hybrid drawing process. The drawing is one of 30 new works that I presented during the solo exhibition Portraits of Thought: Diagrams in Art and Science at the Kyoto University Museum, between 2018 and 2019. This body of work is part of an ongoing project that enters into a dialogue with scientists about the nature of their research, and transfigures their data and diagrams by means of visual metaphor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
JournalDrawing: Research, Theory, Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • drawing
  • modelling
  • visualization
  • art and science
  • evolutionary-biology
  • diagrammatology
  • romantic-objectivism
  • molecular-biology


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