I thought it might be useful to share some of the processes that went into the work generated for Creative Reactions/ Pint of Science 2019.
I have had to get my head around an area of science I was hitherto oblivious of. Epi-genetics is pretty insane! I found epi-genetics such an abstract concept that I delayed starting the artwork for a bit as I needed to process it.
Once I vaguely got used to the concept of epi-genetics (courtesy of lots of explaining by Charlie, YouTube videos and TED talks) I then realised that I had no visual 'hook' to commence designing from. I had been sent wonderful graphs and images of code, but it all felt too far away from the human condition.
That's when it dawned on me - the research Charlie was using as her raw data was from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Otherwise known as the Children of the 90's), which was founded by Jean Golding OBE in (you guessed it) the early nineties. Jean began the Children of the 90's project - the first longitudinal study ever to begin before birth - with data from 14,000 pregnancies. This project is still operating, with information from tests and questionnaires being conducted and children from the initial 1991-1992 study beginning to have their own children (known as Children of the Children of the 90's - or COCO's).
I had never heard of this project before this Creative Reactions pairing with Charlie! So, now I had something else to get my poor brain around. I decided to conduct a many-pronged approach to delving into this. I checked out their website, spoke with Charlie and then did a shout out on Facebook for participants of ALSPAC to get in touch.
And that's when it got really interesting.
One of my neighbours got in touch to say they knew Jean Golding. They kindly managed the introduction, enabling me to meet with the 'Grandmother' of the Children of the 90's (her words, not mine!). At the stage I met Jean I was still baffled by what the project was about. She was exceptionally patient and generous with her time as I asked entry-level questions before eventually grasping the full impact and legacy of this research.
This multi-generational project is groundbreaking, life-saving and inspirational. It was an absolute honour to meet Jean and to hear her plans for the future with this work, as well as gaining true insight into what the initial aims and objectives were of this research.
From this point on, I made contact with a number of participants, whose data is collected for this project. I had the pleasure of meeting three generations of one family - the mother, who signed up to participate with her (then unborn) daughter and her grandson, who is one of the new generation of COCO's. There were other wonderful individuals too, who freely gave up their own time to chat endlessly via social media, answering my questions and agreeing to me using their words and sharing their experiences of being involved. Each person was then asked to provide a photograph of themselves, which I could use in silhouette. This has enabled me to incorporate some of the Children of the 90's stories with images of them into my prints.
Combined with Charlie's research into DNA methylation, I've produced a hand-drawn illustration of DNA, paired this with nucleotide groups from Charlies work and tried my best to inject a human story into my exploration of an epi-genetic study, which is data-heavy, in its pursuit of answers.
I'm not sure I've fully succeeded in making visual what Charlie does, but I have learned a huge amount along the way and feel happy with what I have produced for this Creative Reactions brief. It has pushed me in ways I would not have considered beforehand, for which I say thank you! Thank you, Charlie, for your amazing ability to explain what you do, for your endless clarification during the process and for allowing into your world of deep, crazy data and opening my eyes to an area of science I did not know existed. Thanks also to those who participated in the ALSPAC project - the information that you have provided about yourself and your family has saved lives and will continue to do so - as one participant put it, they feel as though they are involved in a project with true legacy - the modern Doomsday book.