Collaborator Profile: Julie Light

Julie Light is Sutton STEAMs Aheads’ selected artist for the Creative Impact Research and Development Residency, she will be working with research scientists, businesses, clinicians, educators, carers and patients across the London Cancer Hub until January 2024.

For more information about Julie's progress during her residency, you can read her blog.
Julie Light

How are you involved in Sutton STEAMs Ahead?

I am delighted to be starting a project which I am calling ‘Evolving the Ecosystem’ as artist-in-residence at the London Cancer Hub. This project involves me getting to grips with some of the key concepts behind the cutting-edge research into the idea of cancer as an ecology, and using those same ecology concepts to help understand how the organisations forming the London Cancer Hub can grow together to tackle cancer as effectively as possible.

The project is a wonderful opportunity to extend my creative practice, which already has a focus on illness and health. I have previously made artwork about cancer treatment and people’s personal experiences of cancer, but this project will allow me to look at how all the factors involved in preventing and treating cancer come together from both a biological and organisational point of view.

Tell us a little bit about your practice as an artist.

My creative practice focuses on thinking about body and form in unconventional ways, such as inside out or vastly magnified. I explore how we visualise illness and try to understand what effect that has on our everyday experiences. I work mainly creating sculptural pieces in glass and metal, sometimes in combination with other materials, and often collaborate with others to make my work. I’ve recently been involved in various creative projects working with University of Leeds, AstraZeneca, and the National Oceanography Centre, as well as more generally making artwork for exhibitions and shows.

What expectations do you have for the project or what are you hoping to achieve?

At this stage, I’m trying to keep an open mind about exactly what kind of artwork will emerge from the project. My first step is learning more about cancer ecology from researchers at the ICR, and then I want to talk to people working across the different organisations based at the London Cancer Hub to hear how their work might create its own ecology. In fact, I am planning to run workshops while I am at the London Cancer Hub and hope that lots of people from around the Hub will come along and take part.  I want my artwork to emerge from what I discover during these discussions rather than going into the project with set ideas - my aim is to create some prototypes during the project that I can bring into some of those discussions with people. Ultimately, I hope to create artwork that generates food for thought about treating and preventing cancer for those who see it and maybe also inspires people at the London Cancer Hub to see their work in new ways.

What does STEAM mean to you?

In my experience, life can’t easily be divided into specific disciplines; some of our biggest challenges can be overwhelming partly because they are so difficult to break down under simple headings. To me it’s especially important to think about those kinds of challenges using all the tools at our disposal. What excites me about bringing together ideas from art and science is that it not only allows us to understand problems from a wider variety of viewpoints, but also enables us to bring a fuller range of approaches to bear to find creative solutions.  I find this to be equally true across all my creative interests - from thinking about the medical potential of deep ocean creatures all the way to preventing and treating cancer.

What expectations do you have for after the project?

I want to focus my time during the project on learning as much as I can from people working at the London Cancer Hub in all sorts of different capacities and then on testing out my ideas with them. After the residency is formally finished, I hope to refine the artwork prototypes I create during the residency to develop a series of pieces that I can go on to exhibit and share with a wider audience. And if there are opportunities to continue to collaborate, all the better!
Julie Light in her studio. Image (c) Robyn Manning.
Julie Light in her studio. Image (c) Robyn Manning.
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