The art of chemistry

from the Independent, 5 July 2006

Imagine a whiff of Chanel No. 4. Nobody knows now what it was like. But a few things seem certain. Like its more famous successor, it would have contained substances evoking flowers and fruit, yet it was synthesised in a laboratory, not extracted directly from nature. For chemistry, people are slowly realising, has its aesthetic side. Creative personalities from artists to chefs are using chemistry to raise their work to new heights.

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The fame game

from Blueprint, May 2006

Who won the Perrier-Jouët Selfridges Design Prize this year? Don’t know? Well, nobody did. Because the prize, inaugurated, ooh way back in 2001, no longer exists. Even the Selfridges press office had never heard of it. Sic transit gloria mundi. And so, despite other initiatives, British design still lacks its equivalent of the Booker and Turner prizes. It’s not for want of trying

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Outlook bleak for scum of the earth

an interview with James Lovelock in the Times Higher Education Supplement, 3 February 2006

The Revenge of Gaia is James Lovelock’s latest and by far the most unsparing—and gloomy—book. Originally, Lovelock believed that Gaia’s self-regulation would adapt the earth painlessly to humankind’s contamination of it. Indeed, other scientists felt he was merely offering industry, in the words of one of them, ‘an elaborate excuse to pollute’. But now Lovelock adjudges that our bad habits have pushed Gaia too far.

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The categorical denial of Simon Patterson

from Graphics International (UK), July 2003

If it’s often the designer’s job to communicate a sense of an ordered world, then it’s surely the artist’s job to disrupt that order and expose its limitations. Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Hamilton toyed with comic books and familiar brand symbols, giving these mass-produced images the painter’s touch. For Simon Patterson—whose very email address is an anagram of his name—it is the message that is altered while the medium remains intact. One of his most ambitious works, and certainly his best loved, is The Great Bear, a comprehensive reworking of Harry Beck’s famous map of the London Underground.

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Patriot games

from Graphis (US), March-April 2003

The celebrated Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has responded to a commission from the European Union by creating a new European flag. Inadvertently, perhaps, it signals the reversal of the European project. The design takes the stripes of the 15 EU nations’ flags in all their various colours and widths, and jams them together in one eye-aching technicolor barcode. In the shorthand familiar to European citizens, it is clearly the banner of a “Europe of nation-states”, not a “united states of Europe.”

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