Minimal surfaces - artists' views

Collaboration between mathematicians and artists. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust. July-September 2019

Art-Science pilot project with Dr Katrin Leschke, within the Mathematics Department at the University of Leicester, UK. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust through the Public Engagement Scheme of the Institutional Strategic Support Fund.

In September 2016 Dr Leschke was awarded a Leverhulme Trust funded international research grant to set up a collaboration with 5 institutions, University of Leicester, UK; University of Granada, Spain, University College Cork, Ireland, Technical University Munich, Germany and University of Tsukuba Japan. The research network “Minimal surfaces: integrable systems and visualisation” works on open problems on minimal surfaces. Physically, minimal surfaces arise for example when withdrawing a wire loop from soapy water.

Artists are asked to respond to the research that this network is undertaking in the field of minimal surfaces and their visualisation.

The Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust funding is supporting this new opportunity for up to two artists to spend time exploring creative and collaborative practice within the context of current mathematical research.


Similarly to the work of artists, research in pure mathematics may not have immediate and/or financial impact but its research is extremely relevant to science and society. The aim of the project is to investigate how modern research in mathematics, its beauty and its importance, can be communicated to a broader audience. In collaboration with Mathematicians and Artists we aim to find models for demonstrating how mathematicians work, what problems they work on, which methods are used and what results they obtain. In the area of surface theory, computer graphics already allow to show images of the work, however, the deeper beauty of mathematical surface often appears for a mathematician from its context in mathematics: the question we want to address in this project is how to communicate this deeper understanding of mathematics to non-experts.

We will use the topic of the “Finite Topology conjecture”, an open problem in minimal surface theory, for our collaboration; during the residency the artists should get an understanding of the contents of the conjecture, why it is believed to be true, how mathematicians approach the question and what the obstructions are to fully answer the question. The outcomes of the project ideally would explain this, or parts of it, through the achieved art object. For this programme we are offering up to two artists the opportunity for mathematics based art-science residency and commission between July – Sept 2019.

These opportunities are open to artists working in the following disciplines: Multi-art form, Crafts, Dance, Design, Film/TV, Visual Arts, Digital, Sound/Music, Performance, Storytelling, Poetry. Participating artists are being asked to produce new work at the end of the residency which responds to this specific working context. This work will be showcased at the minimal surfaces international workshop in September 2019 at the University of Leicester. Participating artists will present their work and ideas to scientists, students and academics within the University of Leicester as well as to public audiences.


To apply for the residency and further information, click here.

Share this page:

m:iv logo

Supported by Wellcome Trust logo

contact us

if you have any enquiries regarding the project please email us at