Michael Whittle is a British artist, lecturer and researcher in Diagrammatology, the study of diagrams. He originally qualified and trained as a Biomedical Scientist before changing subject to study Fine Art. During his MA at the Royal College of Art, he was awarded the 2004 RCA-Daler Rowney drawing prize and a scholarship to study at Kyoto City University of Arts, Japan’s oldest art school. He later returned there as a Japanese Government Monbusho research scholar to write his PhD thesis, which was awarded the 2014 Takeshi Umehara prize for outstanding doctoral research.
Michael exhibits and lectures internationally, and in 2018 made a five-week lecture tour of the UK, after which he was invited to give the 2018 Pioneer Lecture at the London College of Communication, in celebration of pioneering research in visual art and design communication.
Diagrams have helped to shape the way humans think from the Stone-age to the Information-age, making them one of the oldest, most common and varied types of image humans make. Early cave wall maps and star charts are now known to be at least five times older than the earliest writing, and yet the academic study of diagrams is only relatively new.
Michael’s studio practice and research considers the similarities and differences between the way artists and scientists make and use diagrams, both to create new knowledge and communicate ideas with others. Also, how art can be used to raise science above the purely factual and functional, in order to create what he calls a ‘poetics of science’ that combines our two most important ways of thinking about the world: the subjectivity of the arts and the objectivity of the sciences.
2018-19 Principal Investigator, ‘Portraits of Thought: Diagrams in Art and Science’, Terumo Foundation Research Grant for Life Sciences and Art, Project duration: 12 months
2018-19 Recipient, Nakatsuji Foresight Foundation Research and Publication Grant, Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Studies (KUIAS), Project duration: 12 months
2013-14 Recipient, Nishieda Foundation Grant, ‘Dividing Line - Connecting Line’, Zuiuan Project Space, Kyoto, Project duration: 12 months
2011-14 Co-Investigator, ‘Bodymind Topography: conceptually and physically diagramming the designed experience’, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Research Grant Kyoto City University of Arts, Project duration: 3 years
My approach to teaching is pan-historical, interdisciplinary and multicultural, and it reflects a decade of experience exhibiting, teaching and lecturing internationally as a British artist based in Japan. It also draws heavily on my background in Biomedicine, and experience working as an artist alongside with scientists at key institutions in Europe and Asia.