Explore spectacular new interactive mosaic artwork at AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre in Cambridge – made of 1,000 images
A spectacular mosaic art installation created from more than 1,000 images by schoolchildren has been unveiled at the UK’s largest laboratory - AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre in Cambridge.
Years in the making, the artwork depicts the £1bn R&D building from the air and stretches across 26 square metres.
But go in close and the detail of individual pictures created by children at local schools and attending events with AstraZeneca’s STEM partners are visible.
Scan a QR code with your phone and it becomes interactive - and the 1.65 gigapixels artwork can also be explored online.
Artist Helen Marshall, founder of the People’s Picture, was commissioned by AstraZeneca to create the work.
She told the Cambridge Independent at the launch: “I’m really pleased with it. We started about two and a half years ago. I was matched as a suitable artist with AstraZeneca because they wanted to create a solitary artwork that pulled together all the children’s artwork that was being created as part of their STEM community programme.
“I’ve been collecting and processing thousands of images by contributors and the public for years and creating art - photo mosaics - out of them.
“The biggest challenge of all was what image was it going to be. We explored many images, with different viewpoints, but I felt strongly that the building would be the final image.
“It is an iconic building. The images taken from the air by drone are spectacular. But no one can see the building from above when they enter it.
“I’m always looking for an iconic image. It couldn’t be a face - it would be too personal. Equally, something like a scientific symbol could date.
“It’s a celebration of not just the building but of people coming together - the sum of the parts.
“The artwork is made of over 1,000 pictures, but we’ve repeated them so there are over 5,000 in it. But every image is unique because we’ve changed the colours and the effects.
“The kids did art sessions last summer and were given inspirational questions and ideas. They used mixed media material. Then we collected and scanned the paper artworks, and digitised them.
“There are humorous images, there are self-portraits, there are patterns and shapes, test tubes, there are parts of the body like organs, cells, molecules - all sorts of things.”
Helen is intrigued by the intersection of art and science.
“My process is a combination of digital technology, building things by hand, scanning the original images and doing 100 tests - much like a scientist would really. It’s experimentation until I get something close to what I like. Then it’s a case of polishing it for weeks and months on end,” she said.
“I think art and science have always had a great deal in common, since the dawn of time, but it’s been hard to build a bridge for some reason.
“This is evidence that we work in similar ways. Like scientists doing clinical trials, I’m working with precision and using technology for predictive outcomes, and I’m working in the unknown, as they are.
“But this is the visual world, which is much more about feeling and intuition and expression.”
Congratulating all those whose work made it into the piece, some of whom were at the launch, she added: “It has been a privilege to work alongside a team of scientists with such dedication to the participants and open minds to the artistic outcome, where experimentation is playful and there is an implicit trust in the process.”
Susan Galbraith, executive vice president of oncology R&D, told the Cambridge Independent: “I think it’s fabulous - really inspirational. You can go in really close and see the interesting details that the kids have drawn. Then you step back and you see the totality of it together in the shape of the building.
“I think that’s really symbolic of how science works. We quite often zoom in to the tiniest detail but you have to come back out and understand the implications.
“I also love the fact that it is borne out of the curiosity and imagination of all of these kids, put together brilliantly by Helen Marshall seeing the bigger picture.
“I think it will be inspirational for all of our staff as they come into this fabulous building and see it as a reminder to keep curious, which is what inspired you to do science in the first place.
“I very much hope that some of the children involved will turn into scientists. Who knows - maybe some of them will come and work here eventually? If we can inspire a few of them to go out into the world and make a difference, that would be fabulous.”
Prof Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president, biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, added: “Inspiration in science drives breakthroughs in medicine research and we are delighted our new laboratories, which are state of the art, will be filled with works of art.
“As the largest company in the UK and a vital part of the country’s life sciences ecosystem, AstraZeneca is committed to investing in the culture, community and economy in Cambridge to support science today and foster the scientists of the future.”
Visit https://thepeoplespicture.com/astrazeneca-explore-mosaic/ for the guided tour of the artwork.