Fragile Power

A recent series of collaborations culminated in four works shown at a group exhibition at the Florence Arts Centre running from 6th November to 19th December.


RE:FORM. An exhibition by Art Crit North Cumbria. Florence Arts Centre: 6th November – 18th December 2021.

RE:FORM is a collaborative project which asked artists to make a new piece of work in response to a unique shape. The 12 shapes were part of a 2017 artwork ‘Found Constellations’ by Amy Story which explored Cumbria’s industrial and railway heritage.

Art Crit North Cumbria are a group of artists from different backgrounds and disciplines who help each other to develop artistic practice and projects through open and constructive feedback and collective knowledge.

Alison Critchlow / Amy Story / Anne Waggot Knott / Carlie-Rose Bush / Caroline Dalton / Catriona Archibald / Dave Gowers / Dorothy Ramsay / Laura M R Harrison / Leo Ponton / Steve Meyfroidt & Kym Coratin / Susan Young / Vega Brennan


The work started from two threads that joined up to form a collaborative thread that may continue into the future. The first piece began as a challenge to the #ArtCritNorthCumbria group by artist Amy Story, who wanted to circle back round to work she’d shown in 2017, based on exploring and mapping disused railway stations in Cumbria.

Amy assigned each of us a simple geometric shape from her final works and asked us to respond in some way.

My initial response was simply tracing my assigned shape outwards on my iPad, but with inaccuracies where lines changed direction.

Image 1: Drawing made in Procreate on iPad

The result was interesting in an unexpected way: the shape became less of a focus, which instead seemed to me to land on the joins between lines. The inaccuracies became the subject, and so the role of randomness in my drawing was pushed to the forefront.

Randomness is an integral part of the generative software-aided drawing that I’ve been doing, so it was natural to reproduce this handmade drawing using an algorithm (implemented using openFrameworks). That worked well and gave me the means to make unlimited variations.

Image 2: Drawing made by software

And at about this time, the second thread of this story came along in the form of a group challenge from fellow students in #ocaartscientific; the challenge being to make work in response to the word “allele”

noun Genetics
each of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome. Also called allelomorph.

This tied in with what I’d been sketching with Amy Story’s challenge, so I paired up with Kym Coratin, painter and poet, to begin a game of “tennis” in which I sent her a set of variations on a drawing, made by tweaking the alleles/parameters in my app, and she responded in the voice of Mother Nature to guide the process of selection that we were engaged upon.

The next several months

The process of sending work back and forth moved through several generations, which we started to collect in the form of a book. Work on this is still ongoing however, as we found ourselves responding to a call for exhibition of our responses to the railway station shapes, which needed an end-product suitable for showing in a public space.

Making work for exhibition

Kym and I decided on a new approach, one that would result in physical artefacts and not purely digital ones. With this, we started down a path of exploring handmade papers, the combination of mechanical pen-plotter drawings with hand-made calligraphy, and honing our subject to the business of how nature has moved forward over the lifetime of our planet. Our work became centred on the tiny variations we see in evolution, the creep towards “fitness” and the glacial rate of change over billions of years, with the current concern for whether humans might bring about a sudden end to it all.

Our final works were hung together, to encourage close inspection and comparison, and for the words to be contemplated.

Image 3: Florence Arts Centre

Image 4: Florence Arts Centre

Image 5: ‘Fragile Power’

Image 6: ‘Fragile Power’ in situ

Image 7: ‘Fragile Power’ in situ with visitors

Published by Steve Meyfroidt

Artist, Scientist, Technologist

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