JET as a pictorial record

Painter Sarah Moncrieff has painted a portrait of the world’s largest tokamak. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on “fusing line, colour, mark and texture” with Fusion in Europe.

Why did you choose to paint JET?

I am primarily interested in two things: firstly, what constitutes a person’s daily visual experience. We often become immune to our work environment. We no longer see it with fresh eyes. This feels particularly pertinent in Culham where the structures and colours are extraordinary. My paintings remind us of our everyday surroundings. They also capture a specific moment in the history of our working lives as these environments will undergo change. Secondly, bold shapes, colours and lines appeal to me and I like to derive a sense of order from a visually complex scene.

The choice of colours appears to differ from your usual industry related work.

The bold colours within the work environment of Culham were so strong that I simply could not ignore them. They are a fabulous riot of cadmium yellows, cobalt blues and vermillion reds. It was the combination of the colours and structures that really appealed to me. Had I confined myself to a limited colour palette, I would have lost something fundamental. Instead, the challenge was one of taking the scene and extracting the significant structures and shapes from it in order to achieve a sense of the whole without needing to paint in every element.

What was painting the machine like?

I started the process by drawing the machine over and over again to make sure I understood the structure. There is nothing more frustrating than realising half way through that you have got a crucial element all wrong. Whilst drawing it, I really engaged with the powerful curves, the intricate details of the structures and the different parts all of which connect to create one amazing machine.

I then had to think about what parts of the machine itself I should paint and what parts I should leave out. This is a constant struggle for me as an artist. I need to retain enough to convey the essence of the machine itself, but I don’t want to paint every tiny detail, otherwise I might just as well take a photograph. Painting is a process of saying as much as you can but as concisely as possible.

EUROfusion buys experimental time on an overall of six different fusion machines in Europe. Would you be interested in painting any more?

I am very interested. Presenting a series of paintings of machines and environments at the forefront of technology would be an exciting and stimulating challenge. Scientists will record the progress and results of this journey, but as an artist I can make a pictorial, historical record.

The act of painting is the creation of something, but instead of fusing nuclei to create energy, I am fusing line, colour, mark and texture to create my final piece.

Sarah Moncrieff






UK based Sarah Moncrieff is a painter and concentrates on depicting modern urban life through her Urban Landscape paintings. For more info check out her homepage:




Pictures: Ray Francis