by Ian Randall. Published: 17 February 2011

An exhibition by an artist from the ALICE collaboration is currently showing in CERN’s main building. ‘Impressions and Inspirations’ showcases the art of Grigory Feofilov – sketches made over an 18 year period of conferences, vacations and significant moments in nuclear research.

“This exhibition is sort of about milestones. It's not just pictures - practically all the pictures are relevant to important events on this road to the present,” Feofilov says. “You can imagine 18 years of R&D - this was not trivial.”

Grigory Feofilov

Karlskirche, Vienna, 1992

The sketches were mostly made in spare moments during conferences – the first one being drawn in 1992, at the 6th International Wire Chamber Conference in Vienna – with others originating from vacations and research breaks. “Some of the sketches took ten minutes, some took an hour,” he says. “If you have one hour free to relax and switch from your occupation, that is it.”

“All the conferences are somehow very remarkable events - all the inspirations are coming from the people that you meet, the excitement of the new ideas you discuss,” he adds.

Other sketches carry political messages, with one made to accompany an article Feofilov wrote in the St Petersburg State University Journal, entitled ‘The Air Castles’, on his views on the state and funding of the physical sciences in Russia. The drawing itself depicts Don Quixote, tilting with the windmill of Russian science on the road to nowhere.

Girgory Feofilov

This sketch accompanied Feofilov's article 'The Air Castles'.
The arms of the windmill [science] read 'Innovations, Grants, Reports & Applications', while the signpost reads 'Nowhere'.

Feofilov, who is the head of the Laboratory of Ultra-High Energy Physics at the V. Fock Institute of St Petersburg State University in Russia, explains that he uses drawing as a way of expressing his emotions – both from frustrations as well as successes.

“When you are doing the job in conditions that are not in favour of the physical sciences …it produces sometimes stress, and it takes all of your time and energy,” Feofilov explains. “At some points you need to express your extra energy - you are accumulating lots of emotions, passions, irritations, everything.”

“A couple of times, I just stopped everything completely, went to a nice place in St Petersburg and made a couple of drawings.”

His drawing skills are almost entirely self-taught: “I never learnt,” he says, adding: “Well, in school, we had drawing classes in the 4th or the 5th year. But, of course, when you are doing the design for ALICE, you need some ability to draw.”

Grigory Feofilov

The New Holland Arch in St.Petersburg

Feofilov brought around 50 of his sketches from Russia for the show – the majority of his artistic body of work. He has no favourite among his collection: “it goes like a flood of events - if you have something, you make it,” he says.

The exhibition is running in the ground floor of building 500 from 7-18 February.

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