Archive: March, 2012

The limits of Seeing – Cambridge Science Week

24th March, 2012

The limits of Seeing – Art, Space and Perception at Cambridge Science Festival 2012

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford's presentation

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford’s presentation

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford’s presentation

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

Slide from Dr Joao Linhares’ presentation

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

with Professor Carolin Crawford, astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford’s presentation

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford’s presentation

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford's presentation

Slide from Professor Carolin Crawford’s presentation

Cambridge Science Week 2012, 'The Limits of Seeing' © 2012 Helen Couchman

Dr Joao Linhares’ presents

Featured – China Daily European Weekly, People – Helen Couchman ‘Capital Creations.’

19th March, 2012

China Daily, European Weekly. People 16-22 March 2012 feature, Helen Couchman

Feature in China Daily European Weekly, 16th – 22nd March. To download readable pdf version link here


Capital Creations

By Zhang Xi (China Daily)


Last year, Helen Couchman armed herself with three mirrors and a camera and headed straight into the streets. The mirrors were placed in various positions to “fuse the different elements” of the scenes she took, as symbols to help express her feelings that subsequently resulted in a photo exhibition in the Chinese capital.

One of Couchman’s aims was to showcase the “multiple textures and vistas” of the traditional Beijing alleyways, or hutong, that faced new threats of being demolished to make way for new buildings.

“It has a performative angle: process, construction, dirt, proximity and distance are all evident in these images. This is what I am working with”, she says.

The In Beijing exhibition was one of the latest efforts by Couchman, who has lived in the capital for six years. Her work often explores a popular theme: a fast developing China.

The 38-year-old artist, whose primary medium is photography, sometimes also travels back to Britain to hold exhibitions or conduct research. She expects her In Beijing show to travel to London this year. Last week, Couchman was speaking at the popular Cambridge Science Week in a talk entitled Limits of Seeing.

In 2008, she published her first photographic collection Workers, to illustrate her personal engagement with China.

In the book, she showed photos of 143 migrant workers posed with the National Stadium and other key buildings within the Olympic Village constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In 2010, the artist also produced a linocut collection called Cloud series, Yellow lining, in which clouds and the sky were portrayed as a landscape.

She says her work was inspired by “a yellow line” she saw in the sky as her plane landed in Beijing in February that year.

Couchman, who has travelled to many places in China and produced considerable work here, was inspired to come to China a decade ago.

Images from the Harbin ice festival in northeastern Heilongjiang province on the back of a weekend magazine fascinated her. Even more compelling: stories about the planned flooding of the Yangtze valley. She felt she “needed to come here as soon as possible before China’s rapid changes and development swallowed these places”.

In 2006, she finally got to Beijing via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

“I first came to China on the train from Moscow in January 2006. I took the train as it was my first time coming to China and I wanted to see the distance coming across from Europe to Asia and I had, since I was a child, a fascination for the story of the last Tsar of Russia and his family’s demise in Siberia.

“I was born about an hour south of London and when I was 8 weeks old, my family moved to a ruined farmhouse in the Brecon Beacons National Park in the mountains of south Wales.

“My parents slowly did it up and learned farming. They bought a ruin because the area was beautiful, but at that time you could not build a new home in the national park,” she says. Now a professional artist and taking her works across the world, Couchman still reviews where she should be working every year.

“This year I have some research to pursue in London and projects to do in China.” But her current focus is Beijing.

“Heading to the parks or walking through the hutong in this city is one of my favourite things, “Couchman says. “One of the things I enjoy about China is that I learn something new everyday.”

Update 26/03/12:

Article also features in the China Daily (mainland newspaper)

‘Globetrotting British artist blooms in Beijing’


Talk – ‘The limits of Seeing – Art, Space and Perception.’ Cambridge Science Festival 2012

18th March, 2012


EXPERIENCE THE LIMITS OF SEEING an art and science panel, part of Cambridge Science Festival. Continuing Visualise’s exploration of the boundaries of inner and outer space we invite all to the second ART AND SCIENCE CIRCLE: a starry, thought-provoking, fun, interactive, public discussion on The Limits of Seeing, on THURSDAY 22nd MARCH at 7.30 pm, LAB 028, Anglia Ruskin University. With Professor Carolin Crawford, Institute of Astronomy Cambridge; Elinor Morgan, Curator Wysing Arts; Helen Couchman, Artist;  Joao Linhares and Matilda Biba, Vision Scientists, Anglia Ruskin University; plus ‘Can You See what I See?’ a new video made specially for the event by Marina Velez and Russell Cuthbert. Don’t miss !! 7.30-9.00 pm. Free event.

In association with Cambridge Science Festival, Anglia Ruskin Science and Technology Faculty and Wysing Arts Centre.


Professor Carolin Crawford is an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Her research focuses on the properties of the most massive galaxies in the Universe, using data collected from the largest ground-based and space telescopes. Carolin combines her research and teaching with her other passion – communicating her love of astronomy to as wide an audience as possible. She runs the outreach programme at the Institute of Astronomy, and in addition to giving many talks on a wide range of astronomical topics, is a regular contributor to both national and local radio programmes. In 2009 Carolin was noted as one of the UKRC’s Women of Outstanding Achievement for the communication of science with a contribution to society. See website –

Helen Couchman (born UK) has exhibited widely, both in the United Kingdom and internationally.  Her first book, WORKERS 工人, June 2008 was exhibited in London and in Hong Kong and will be shown in April 2012 for the first time in Beijing. It takes the form of a series of portraits of the men and women who laboured to build the Olympic park for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her second book, Mrs. West’s Hats (2009) consists of sixty self-portraits, referencing  her maternal grandmother, whose splendidly eccentric collection of hats Couchman wears in the photographs. Later  works include Untitled (Collecting and Dropping) (2009) Cloud series, Yellow lining (2010) and In Beijing (2011). These works address in part her negotiations with the city of Beijing where she has now worked for six years.  She now lives in Beijing and in London. More at

Dr Joao Linhares: Lecturer in Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University. He graduated  in Optometry and Vision Sciences in 2002 from the University of  Minho, Braga, Portugal and was granted a MPhil in 2006, from Manchester University, UK.  He was awarded his PhD doctorate in 2011.  His research interests include hyperspectral imaging, chromatic diversity in complex scenarios and colour vision deficiency.  More at

Joao will be accompanied by his colleague in Anglia Ruskin Vision and Hearing Sciences, Matilda O’Neill-Biba, MCOptom,  who  has a degree in Optometry and Vision Sciences in 2002 from City University, London where she is now undertaking research and currently in the final stages of her PhD.  She is also a visiting lecturer on the MSc Diabetic module, City University. Her research interests include  acquired visual function and colour vision loss in subjects with ocular and systemic conditions (ARMD, Diabetes, MS and Glaucoma); new colour vision and congenital colour vision deficiency and assessment.

Elinor Morgan is  Curator & Programme Director at Wysing Arts Centre which she joined as Operations Director in July 2010. She has been heavily involved with development and commissioning of Wysing’s forthcoming COSMOS residency programme. She was previously Chair of OUTPOST Gallery, Norwich, an artist-run space where she worked with a range of artists and developed various off-site projects. Since its inception Ellie has been keenly involved in the progress of the Eastern Region’s Turning Point network.  She studied History of Art, Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of East Anglia.  More at

Marina Velez and Russell Cuthbert both attained first class degrees from Anglia Ruskin University where they studied BA in Fine Art. Marina is currently completing her second and final year of the Masters in Fine Art course also at ARU.  More at:

For Limits of Seeing they are in the process of making a new video work ”Can You See What I See?‘

Artists Statement:

Most important astronomical observatories are placed in high altitude locations such as the Atacama Desert, the Andes or Hawaii,  where visibility is optimal as they are situated above clouds, water vapour and other atmospheric elements. However, scientists working in these observatories have to deal with physical and psychological high altitude related medical problems. When discoveries are made at these sites, assuring scientific rigour is paramount. This is normally achieved through a series of cognitive tests that measure both accuracy and speed of thinking, conducted between the scientists in the observatory and those based at sea level. This tension between what it is gained in vision and what may be lost in understanding highlights the idea that we do not necessarily see only with our eyes, but rather with our brains and our consciousness. This video work uses a poetic and minimal language to express the problematics of achieving universal understanding of concepts and suggests that this process is both visual and verbal. It explores the limits of vision through communication and understanding that is simultaneously inwards and outwards, subjective and objective.


For the website link here

For Cambridge Science Festival 2012 link here

Cambridge Sience Week Visualise Talk