On Growth and Form – 100 years on and still growing

Limestone sculpture, In the Beginning, 2009, by Peter Randall-Page and digital c-print, Trifolium repens L.- top view – No.10, 2016, by Macoto Murayama, acquired in 2013 and 2016 by the University of Dundee Museum Collections with NFA grants of £15,000 and £1,267 respectively.

The University of Dundee has a long history of encouraging collaboration between art and science, going back to its origins in the 1880s when two of its most notable professors, D’Arcy Thompson (1860-1948), Professor of Biology, and Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), Professor of Botany, were pioneering visual thinkers who worked regularly with both scientists and artists. The art critic Herbert Read later told Thompson: ‘you have built the bridge between art and science’.

One of the most significant collections held by the University is that of the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum, comprising the surviving natural history specimens and teaching aids of the internationally renowned polymath. D’Arcy’s collection was used not only in teaching his students but also in researching his landmark book On Growth and Form, published one hundred years ago, which pioneered the new science of mathematical biology. Described as ‘the greatest work of prose in twentieth century science’, the book has had a huge influence in many fields. It showed that the complexity of nature can be understood through basic mathematical and physical laws and that living organisms are not static but constantly affected by the forces acting upon them. This has profoundly influenced many artists including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Hamilton, Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dali.

Over the past few years, the University has been building a collection of significant artworks inspired by D’Arcy Thompson’s ideas and collections, two of which have been grant-aided by the National Fund for Acquisitions.

The renowned British sculptor Peter Randall-Page RA (b1954) discovered On Growth and Form as an art student. His practice has always been informed and inspired by the study of natural phenomena, particularly the underlying principles determining growth. In his words ‘geometry is the theme on which nature plays her infinite variations’. With help from the NFA and the Art Fund, we were able to acquire his large-scale sculpture In the Beginning, which evokes cells multiplying within an expanding membrane. The sculpture is sited at the modern entrance to the University’s 19th-century Carnelley Building and can be visited by the public during normal working hours.

Peter Randall-Page sculpture installed

Limestone sculpture, In the Beginning, 2009, by Peter Randall-Page. University of Dundee Museum Services © the artist


Although the work of Japanese artist Macoto Murayama (b1984) takes a very different form, he too takes the mathematics of nature as his starting point. He has become internationally known for his exquisitely beautiful botanical artworks which he terms ‘inorganic flora’. These extraordinary images are created after minutely dissecting real flowers and studying them under a microscope. His drawings are then modelled in 3D imaging software and rendered into 2D compositions before being printed in large scale. The print we acquired is from a series showing white clover, Trifolium repens, and was created for an exhibition of his work we held in 2016.

Trifolium repens L.-top view-No.10

Digital c-print, Trifolium repens L.- top view – No 10, 1916, by Macoto Murayama. University of Dundee Museum Services © the artist


Macoto’s stunning print was one of almost 100 artworks from our D’Arcy Thompson art collection shown earlier this year in A Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the Influence of D’Arcy Thompson at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh. The exhibition kicked off a year of celebrations for the centenary of On Growth and Form, including events in New York, Amsterdam and London, culminating in a major conference and exhibition in Dundee in October. Further details can be found at www.ongrowthandform.org

Matthew Jarron
Curator of Museum Services
University of Dundee


The NFA and the University of Stirling Sculpture Trail

Sculptures by George Rickey, Iain McColl, Helen Denerley, Lotte Glob, Joseph Ingleby and Nick Evans acquired by the University of Stirling Art Collection between 1999-2012 with NFA grants totalling £32,913.

In Autumn 2014 the University of Stirling will launch a new Sculpture Trail.  It is, in part, thanks to the National Fund for Acquisitions that this trail exists. Over the last 20 years the NFA has made a significant contribution to the purchase and commission of sculptural works which can be found across the University campus.

Pursuit of Knowledge by Iain McColl

The Cottrell Memorial Sculpture, ‘Pursuit of Knowledge’, fibreglass, by Iain McColl. Photograph by John McPake reproduced by permission of the artist

The University of Stirling is situated in a picturesque landscape around Airthrey Loch with views to the Ochil Hills, the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. The University has always given an important place to art and seen it as key to creating a positive and inspiring environment for staff, students and visitors.

Reservoir Tap by Joseph Ingleby

Sheet steel sculpture, ‘Reservoir Tap’, by Joseph Ingleby. Photograph by John McPake, reproduced by permission of the artist

The Art Collection was established along with the University in 1967 and sculpture was represented from the start. Early sculptural works in the collection included pieces by Barbara Hepworth, Eduardo Paolozzi and George Wyllie. In 1995 the University hosted an exhibition of sculptures being toured by the Scottish Sculpture Open. This helped to demonstrate the potential for the campus to showcase sculpture and a drive towards increased collecting in this area began.

'King and Queen' by Nick Evans

Brushed aluminium sculpture, ‘King and Queen’, by Nick Evans. Photograph by John McPake, reproduced by permission of the artist

Since then the NFA has supported the University in this vision through the purchase of  One Rectangle Excentric (1998) by George Rickey, acquired in 1999; the Cottrell Memorial Sculpture (2002) by Iain McColl, commissioned in 2002; Oyster catchers (2007) by Helen Denerley, acquired in 2007; Fragment I and Fragment of the Land (2007) by Lotte Glob, acquired in 2009; Reservoir Tap (1995) by Joseph Ingleby, acquired in 2010; and King and Queen (2007) by Nick Evans, acquired in 2012.

'Fragment of the Land' by Lotte Glob

Ceramic Sculpture, ‘Fragment of the Land’, by Lotte Glob. Photograph by John McPake, reproduced by permission of the artist

'Oyster Catchers' by Helen Denerley

Scrap and found metal sculpture, ‘Oyster Catchers’, by Helen Denerley. Photograph by John McPake, reproduced by permission of the artist

The University’s official Sculpture Trail, featuring these works and more, will be available online and as a leaflet in Autumn 2014. In the meantime, the Pathfoot is open weekdays 9am – 5pm and at weekends 11am – 3pm. The campus is open to the public at all times. Why not come and enjoy a wander in this beautiful setting? Who knows what you might discover.

Rhona Ramsay
Art Collection
University of Stirling




Cool and Collected at Aberdeen Art Gallery

Bronze on marble sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, 1962-3, by Barbara Hepworth, painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, 2004, by Gavin Turk and hand blown glass, pink and blue neon artwork, For You, 2008, by Tracey Emin, acquired by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums in 1965, 2004 and 2009 with NFA grants of £1,200, £20,000, and £13,500 respectively.

Challenging, exciting, dramatic, witty, fun or serious and above all superb quality – these are the hallmarks of contemporary fine art collecting at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Ever since its inception in 1885, the acquisition of contemporary art has been its lifeblood. This first came about through the generosity of one our earliest benefactors, Alexander Macdonald, who left a fund to buy works of art which were not more than 25 years old.

Subsequent curators built on this foundation and now – a regional art gallery perched on the edge of north east Scotland – we hold an outstanding collection of modern 20th century and contemporary art, with recent focus on sculpture, installation, conceptual art and new media. The National Fund for Acquisitions has long supported curatorial decisions to expand the collections in fresh and dynamic ways.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.  Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.
Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

For some time now, the rather severe classical grandeur of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s Centre and Side Courts has provided the perfect foil to Post Modern works of art, for example, Gavin Turk’s bronze sleeping bag Habitat which appears both as a very realistic rumpled abode of a homeless person and an object of contemplation.  Another purchase, Tracey Emin’s pink and blue neon love heart sign For You possesses a vista from halfway up the street approaching the Art Gallery, drawing you in through the front door. The sign also reflects in the pool in front , created by Barbara Hepworth in the 1960s to hold her marvellous bronze piece Trezion.

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form - Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

The art of these two remarkable women works so well together proclaiming loudly to anyone walking in that this gallery is about great art – modern and contemporary.

Olga Ferguson
Curator (Fine Art)
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums