Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Lish
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am a visual artist and current DPhil candidate in Theoretical Physics at Oxford University. A desire to understand the relationship between natural laws and humanity’s ability to uncover universal truths has informed my belief that problem-solving requires interdisciplinary thinking. I believe innovation is related to worldview; choosing to see interconnections between disciplines is an integral part of moving any one field forward. To me, art and science converge on the principle of discovery. Both relentlessly ask questions, and challenge society to move forward. This way of thinking led me to my research focus which utilizes mathematics and quantum mechanics to uncover properties about cell geometry, and my artwork focus which relies on the dynamic interplay between nature and humanity’s creative interference. In sum, I study emergent patterns that arise from an amalgam of parts.
What inspired you to become an artist?
For me, art is a vehicle by which I become more fascinated with the world around and within me. It has always been a means of expression to unveil the ideas swimming in my head. Being an artist is accompanied by a mindset that treats everything as a potential subject for exploration.
What is your specialty?
My artistic style is a synthesis of realistic, abstract, and conceptual imagery in the form of paintings, drawings, and digital media. My interdisciplinary research approach to artmaking will be reflected by my re-purposing of imagery in a collage type fashion and prompting the viewer to ask questions. My goal is to create artworks that have a penetrating quality, recognizable for their logical abstraction, detailed application of color, and choice of subject matter. I focus on making engaging designs, both physical and digital, based on insights from art, science, and Judaism.
How and where do you work?
Any flat surface is fair game to be covered with art materials. I typically work on science during the day and art at night.
What is the most indispensable item in your creative space?
My smallest paintbrush that I use to sign artworks.
here do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
The dynamic interplay between the forces of nature and humanity’s creative interference with those forces is an overarching theme of my work. I aim to simplify multifaceted scientific and Judaic concepts by depicting their elemental components. In order to gain a complete understanding of a concept in art, science or religion, it first needs to be broken apart. The objects of my artwork are typically puzzles for people to dissect; their composition requires a level of calculated concentration as does planning a science experiment. Every brushstroke, like every step-in scientific inquiry, is an essential component to the final outcome. The penetrating quality of my work is recognizable for its degree of visual complexity, and choice of subject matter, which prompts the viewer to ask questions.
Do you do bespoke work?
I do take commissions
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently a fellow at the Laboratory for Jewish Culture (LABA) where I hope to complete a series of digital paintings that depict the infinite spirit manifested by the Hebrew letters chosen by G-d at the beginning of time, each unique for its specific role in carrying out the process of creation. In this study, form is critical for function; the shape of the Hebrew letters is essential for the concepts they represent. I am making these artworks through superposition of many layers, and digital brush strokes, based on insights from Kabbalistic literature and other relevant Jewish texts. I believe that revealing, reinterpreting, and unmasking, biblical content through a modern-day lens is a crucial part of grappling with the ever-changing contemporary Jewish landscape.
What is your favourite item in your current collection?
My favorite artwork is called Flaming bride, which depicts the ultimate Sabbath wedding celebration as the candle bride and groom rejoice in the surrounding Hebrew letters.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
I take a step back when the adjustments become finer, and border on overcorrection
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
A photocopy of a flower drawing in first grade, for which I charged a quarter.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
I have begun writing and illustrating a children’s book based on the story in the Zohar (1: 2b) where the “Blessed Holy One” contemplates the Hebrew letters through which the world would be fashioned. The letters present themselves before G-d in dramatic succession to vie for the coveted spot of beginning all of creation. Paradoxically, the second letter of the alefbet was chosen to begin creation and not the first. This dramatic story is a quintessential example of the impact hidden events can have on unfolding history. Each letter is an embodiment of spiritual and historic content. My hope is to make seemingly esoteric concepts from biblical literature more accessible and shed light on the evolving Jewish narrative.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
My projects in both science and art attempt make foundational stories more accessible to the public by uncovering truths. Ultimately, I hope to become an agent of positive change in the education system and broader interdisciplinary research community.
Photos: Courtesy of Samantha Lish