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January 29, 2010

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Portraits humanize 'lofty' scientists

STEREOTYPICALLY scientists are supposed to be reserved left-brain folks, good with logic and analysis, off in an ivory tower - while artists are the sensitive right-brain souls, outgoing people with flair.

It's not that simple, of course, and the Shanghai Association for Science and Technology is bringing artists and academics together for fun, science and art.

The aim is to educate the public about scientists and humanize them.

Fifteen artists are being paired with 15 academics, and the artists are painting oil or water-color portraits of the men and women of science and academe.

The works produced in the ongoing "Academicians' Gallery" will be displayed at the 2010 International Science and Art Exhibition from May 15 to 20 in Pudong.

This reporter noted that most of the artists involved seem quite reserved, while the scientists appeared quite talkative.

"Frankly, I don't know much about art," says Prof Wen Yumei renowned academician in microbiology at Fudan University. "But by communicating with artists, I find that a colorful door in life has opened for me. I have something new and interesting to study."

Jiang Jianzhong, a noted local portrait artist says: "It's an honor to paint academicians who have made great contributions to science. But it's not easy, as a good portrait should reveal the inner personality of the subject."

"Those famous academicians and scientists are not so difficult to approach or 'high above the sky'," says Chen Yuhui, a member of the organizing staff.

"We especially hope young people will learn more about the contributions made by these academicians, and we also hope to present scientists as regular people," Chen says.

The "Academicians' Gallery" activity, launched in 2004, features portraits of 165 scientists and academics.

Every year dialogues between artists and scientists are arranged in an "Art and Science Salon" sponsored by the Shanghai Association for Science and the Shanghai Institute for Advanced Studies.

Early this month Chinese-American musician Huang Shu and local photographer Lin Lu exchanged views about creative thinking in art and science with five academics.

"Although I don't know anything about science, I think it's meaningful to arrange these discussions," says Huang. "Artists and scientists both are passionate and serious about their work."


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