Thinking 3D: three-dimensionality and its impact on the arts and sciences

Research Policy Office
Tuesday 31 October 2017

Thinking 3D is

  • an interdisciplinary exploration of the concept of three-dimensionality and its impact on the arts and sciences;
  • an innovative project which puts the minds of the 21st century in touch with those of early practitioners exploring three-dimensionality;
  • a year-long series of exhibitions, events, public talks, gallery shows, and academic symposia intended to incite dialogue between artists, art and book historians, mathematicians, astronomers, geometers, earth scientists, botanists, chemists, etc.

The project is centred on the development of the techniques used to communicate three-dimensional forms in two-dimensional media.

The representation of truthful three-dimensional forms during the Renaissance became a skill to practice, and its successful completion was considered a virtuoso display of talent. As reliable two-dimensional illustrations of three-dimensional subjects became more prevalent it also impacted the way that disciplines developed: architecture could be communicated much more clearly, mathematical concepts and astronomical observations could be quickly relayed, observations of the natural world moved towards a more realistic method of depiction.

Thinking 3D will put the 21st century mind in touch with the legacy of some of the greatest artists and thinkers (Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Andreas Vesalius, Johannes Hevelius, John Aubrey, William Hunter, etc.) through the medium of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, offering a cluster of exhibitions and events, which will tell the story of the communication of three-dimensionality and the impact that the developments of related techniques had on artists and draughtsman throughout time and across space.

This theme is of great relevance today, as amateur and professional designers are constantly thinking about how to communicate three-dimensional forms in traditional media or by using computer software and 3D printing.

This a pan-Oxford season of events with the heart of the project constituted by a main exhibition at the Treasury of the Bodleian Libraries (in the Weston Library). It will be surrounded by a group of satellite exhibitions and supported by a series of conferences, talks and workshops. Exhibitions across the University and city will display books, manuscripts, prints and drawings from various local collections, loans from other institutions, reproductions of works of art which will enhance the understanding of the concept, and original pieces commissioned to contemporary designers and artists who will take direct inspiration from the items on show.

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