Peta Jacobs is a Bristol-based artist who uses mixed-media to investigate light, taking inspiration from quantum physics. Peta has kindly loaned some of her work to us, which is now on display around Unit DX. Peta sat down with Patrick Fallon to discuss the theories behind her art.
Could you give me some background on your work, what are the key scientific ideas behind it?
The starting point for my work was an investigation of light. I took my research as broadly and as deeply as I could and discovered the quantum aspects of light. I’m inspired by the paradoxes revealed by the double-slit experiment and the questions of wave-particle duality. I was intrigued by how these experiments reveal mysteries underlying reality, for example, indicating that a particle may be in two places at once. I’m also interested in recent experiments that are proving quantum entanglement (across 143 km from La Palma to Tenerife). I visually explore interference effects in my artwork —sometimes using a diffraction grating, a material composed of multiple slits which beautifully unfolds the spectrum from white light.
Are you influenced by any particular artists or scientists?
A big influence on my work is the research of the physicist, David Bohm, who was a leading figure in quantum physics during the 20th century. He was exiled from the US during the McCarthy era, so his research spanned the globe, undertaking fellowships and positions at Princeton, Sao Paulo, Birkbeck and Bristol, where he discovered the ‘Aharonov-Bohm effect’ in 1959.
Could you tell me more about the pieces at Unit DX?
The two artworks displayed in the Unit DX Lounge are visualisations of particle-wave concepts, the dots representing the particles, the reflections in dichroic rings representing the wave. What you see shifts as you move, the dichroic material brings an unexpected element and you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. It brings in the idea of the observer effect that emerges from the double-slit experiment.
The piece displayed in the Unit DX reception is called “Quantum Questions: Line interrupted”. It is inspired the by the Aharonov/Bohm effect—a non-local effect where electrically charged particles are affected by an electromagnetic potential even though they are in a shielded zone where the electric and magnetic fields are zero. The reflections in the dichroic material interrupt the lines and change the colours. I create works where when you look at it from two points of view, you see different things, for instance, one person can see green and magenta, and another person, standing in another position, sees blue and yellow. But, actually, there is only one piece of art. I bring this dual experience forward into other pieces of work that I make too.
To find out more about Peta’s work, please visit her website.