Clouds of a Chaotic Sky – Exhibition at Salamanca Arts Centre

OFFICIAL OPENING: 6pm Friday 5 January 2018
EXHIBITION DATES: Saturday 6 – Monday 22 January 2018, open 10am – 4pm daily
SIDE SPACE GALLERY Salamanca Arts Centre

Lie on your back and observe the shapes drifting through the sky. Imagine the weight of the billions of droplets of water suspended – a blanket, saturated and heavy, slipping between forms, amorphous and ever changing. Claire Pendrigh’s exhibition Clouds of a Chaotic Sky is an exploration of the sublime, ephemeral beauty of clouds.

Join us for the exhibition opening, with opening remarks from Simon McCulloch – ABC’s 7pm weather presenter in Tasmania and senior forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Read more at: www.salarts.org.au/event/clouds-of-a-chaotic-sky

This exhibition is supported by Salamanca Arts Centre.

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Telescope

Claire Pendrigh, Telescope, 2017, felted wool and various materials

I decided that I wanted to take a pencil, and trace my path through space. The line would follow me around the earth as it rotates on its axis, around the sun over the course of a year, around the galaxy as it rotates around the black hole at its core. And it would never meet its starting point, because by the time I had completed the 250 million year rotation of the galaxy, the whole thing would have shifted, continuing its trajectory through space.

Then I would take a telescope and look back behind me at this looping, arcing, whirling line that never revisits the same point twice, and I would be able to understand my own trajectory through space.

In school we learn that the Earth orbits the Sun, and we often draw its path as a circle. This was the form I imagined my line would take – a series of circular loops and spirals. In reality, our path is elliptical. Well, actually, it’s still not that simple. As the earth travels around the sun its path is influenced by the gravitational pull of the moon as it orbits us, and by the gravitational pull of all the other planets in our solar system as they travel on their paths around the sun.

The more intricate I discovered this path to be, the less confident I became in my mental picture of my path through space.

I came up against a problem of scale. I wanted my line to reflect all the variations and intricacies of real orbits, but the variations are so small compared to the scale of the solar system, that to represent them accurately my drawing would not fit on a piece of paper. Conversely, compared to the scale of me, these variations are substantial. However, to draw them at that scale you would have to lose sight of the bigger picture.

In the end, what you actually see when you look through my telescope, is a moving diagram that traces the path of one of my hanging mobiles from Some Stars Wobble. The circles each indicate the potential path of one weight. Their slow movement within each other (I think they look a bit like organisms in a petri dish) maps the potential configurations of that mobile.

I didn’t want to lose sight of my line, documenting the path of the Earth, so I also included some Earth measurements around the mobile map. The numbers cycle through 0 – 365.2422 for the days of a year, the moon experiences 12 phases, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis completes one full cycle. You can see a video of this work, along with pictures of other works from this exhibition, at clairependrigh.com.

Some Stars Wobble

Claire Pendrigh, Some Stars Wobble, 2017, rocks and wire

This mobile is part of an exhibition of the same name, currently on show at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston. You can see all the artworks in the show here.

Some stars really do wobble. It’s one of the ways we can tell if a star has a planet orbiting it. Anything that is locked in an orbit with anything else, wobbles.

It’s easier to see If you look at two objects of similar mass that are orbiting each other, for instance, Pluto and its inner most moon Charon. With half the diameter and one-eighth the mass of Pluto, Charon is a very large moon. Its gravitational influence is big enough that both bodies spin around a point in space between them.

All orbital systems have this balance point; it’s called the “barycentre”. When a tiny planet orbits a massive star, the barycentre exists within the body of the star, so instead of making a discernable orbit, the star just appears to wobble.

The barycentre is nicely modelled in a mobile, as each side of each arm needs to be equally weighted. In Some Stars Wobble each mobile starts with two rocks on either end of a wire. I find the balance point, and add a loop and a swivel. Then I add another wire with a rock on the end. This time, the balance point has one rock on one side, and two on the other. To make the mobile hang flat, the balance point needs to be in the centre of mass between the two starting rocks, and the one new rock. The next level balances one rock against three rocks and the pattern continues.

In this mobile, I wanted to see just how complicated a balancing act between rocks in space might be. Imagine how many paths each rock could travel on its journey around this cluster – how many variations are possible.

Claire Pendrigh, Some Stars Wobble (detail), 2017, rocks and wire

A Sign in Space

Some Stars Wobble is on show at Sawtooth ARI Gallery in Launceston until 24 June.

In astronomy, a wobbling star indicates an orbiting object – the gravity of each object affecting the orbital path of the other.

For this body of work I decided to imagine what it would look like if I could trace my path through space, creating a line the followed me round and round; as the globe spins on its axis, as the Earth orbits the sun, as the solar system revolves, slowly, around the centre of the galaxy. I quickly discovered that this is a more complicated mental exercise than I had anticipated.

You can see all the artworks on my website at www.clairependrigh.com.

I also thought that I might do a couple of posts about individual works in the show, here on my blog – starting with this series of tiny paintings, A Sign in Space.

Claire Pendrigh, A Sign in Space (series), 2017, oil on board

This series of paintings takes its title from a story by Italo Calvino, from his volume of “Cosmicomics”. Each story in this collection begins with some kind of scientific hypothesis, followed by a first person narrative recounted by the unpronounceable but irrepressible protagonist, Qfwfq.

In “A Sign in Space”, Qfwfq explains how he once decided to time how long it takes the Earth to complete one revolution of the Milky Way, by creating a sign in space. He leans out over the edge of the galaxy and finds a spot that is undisturbed by the whirling orbit of worlds within, and places his sign. Then he waits.

“So as the planets continued their revolutions, and the solar system went on in its own, I soon left the sign far behind me, separated from it by the endless fields of space. And I couldn’t help thinking about when I would come back and encounter it again, and how I would know it, and how happy it would make me, in that anonymous expanse, after I had spent a hundred thousand light-years without meeting anything familiar, nothing for hundreds of centuries, for thousands of millennia; I’d come back and there it would be in its place, just as I had left it, simple and bare, but with that unmistakable imprint, so to speak, that I had given it.” – Italo Calvino, “The Complete Cosmcomics; A Sign In Space”

In case you are wondering, it takes about 250 million years.

As our protagonist searches the outer reaches of the galaxy for his sign, he starts to worry. What if, after all this time, he can’t remember what his sign looks like? What if he passes it and doesn’t recognise it at all! I imagine his inner voice saying “Is it here? No, over here? I’m sure I passed by here before. It must be just around this corner.”

The need to place himself in the universe, with an identifying mark, becomes an obsession; one that I, and I’m sure many artists, can relate to. It’s the need to create a thing, that exists beyond yourself, that acts as a reference point, that you, and others, can look back on as proof of your existence in that space and that time. I was here.

The clusters of stars in this little series of paintings are based on real “globular clusters”. Globular clusters are spherical collections of stars, tightly bound together by gravity, found in the halos of galaxies (right near the edge). The stars in these clusters are extremely old, perhaps some of the first to have formed in the galaxy.

I like to imagine that these clusters could act as useful landmarks if you were searching the boundary of the galaxy for a sign you had left there. Unfortunately for Qfwfq, it is very hard to measure anything in a universe in which nothing stays still.

Some Stars Wobble

Some Stars Wobble opens 6pm Friday 2 June at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston, Tasmania.

Here on the Earth we are never still. Imagine drawing a line in space that traces your location as you go round and round, as the globe spins on its axis, as the Earth orbits the sun, as the solar system revolves, slowly, around the centre of the galaxy. The hanging mobiles, installations and paintings exhibited in Some Stars Wobble examine the complex balance of a shared existence in the universe.

There are also three other exciting exhibitions opening at Sawtooth ARI on 2 June, check their website for full details.

Opening 6pm Friday 2 June
Exhibition runs 1 June – 24 June

Sawtooth ARI
Level , 160 Cimitiere St
Launceston Tasmania

Gallery Hours 
Wednesday to Friday 12 noon – 5 pm
Saturday 10 am – 2 pm

Inner Space

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I recently had the pleasure of exhibiting my Star Clouds in my home town of Canberra.

Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS), Gorman House, invited me to be part of an incredible show of work by artists who explore cosmic themes in an everyday context. You can find the exhibition catalogue on their website.

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DeMonstrable

Paper-skin

Claire Pendrigh, Paper-skin, 2015, rice paper, pen and watercolour

Rice paper feels a bit like skin, a thin and fragile covering which records its history in the layers of its surface. Just under the surface of this paper-skin is an implanted foreign body. A single circle, an ink and watercolour drawing of cartilaginous material, is sandwiched between the two sheets of paper.

Paper-skin is part of an artist book by Donna Franklin in her artwork EarMouse Such Sweet Music, 2015. This artwork is currently exhibited in DeMonstrable at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, curated by SymbioticA Director Oron Catts. In this exhibition, new work by a number of artists has been commissioned to commemorate, respond to, and reflect on the multifaceted cultural and scientific impact of the Earmouse.

DeMonstrable is open from 3 October – 5 December 2015.

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Donna Franklin, EarMouse Such Sweet Music, 2015

Tea Seas at BRAG

exhibition opening 4

Tea Seas, a body of work created during my recent artist residency at Studio Kura in Itoshima, Japan, is now on display at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries (BRAG). It is wonderfully refreshing to be able to exhibit in the same town that I live in for the first time in a long while!

I would like to send a huge thanks to all the staff at BRAG for their involvement, and to Sharon Kennedy for opening the exhibition.

Tea Seas uses imagery of a primordial sea contained in a teacup. Taking their cues from the Japanese tea ceremony, these artworks follow a ritualistic process of repetition and restraint. The paintings, drawings and animation work exhibited use traditional Japanese pigments on rice paper to explore our own biology and evolution.

Photographs by Taj Kemp.

exhibition opening

Innerspace

I’m very excited to have my work in this wonderful exhibition with all these wonderful artists! Curated by David Broke, Innerspace exhibits the work of 8 artists in Canberra Contemporary Art Space’s Gorman House gallery.

Space. It seems to go on and on forever. Then you get to the end, and a monkey starts throwing barrels at you.

Phillip Fry, Futurama

From time immemorial artists have looked to the heavens with a sense of awe and wonder but infinity (as we know it) is definitely not the concern of Innerspace. Christopher Bennie, Jacqueline Bradley, Ham Darroch, Shellaine Godbold, Ellis Hutch, Claire Pendrigh Elliott, Rusty Peters and Jed Wolki take a view of space that is more about reverie than comprehension. Deep space thus becomes a profoundly personal matter. Whether employing cosmic clichés, scientific research, observation or stories, the universal is to be found at home; in the kitchen, the nursery, the studio or the extended backyard. Materials are nearly always appropriately modest, with for example, cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, chocolate wrappers, wool, old newspapers, trash and breakfast cereal expressing grand(iose) ideas that engage with a futile struggle to conquer the meaning of life. Quite simply, Innerspace is an exhibition that sees the notion of space grounded by the gravitational pull of prosaic imagination.

– CCAS –

Innerspace is on exhibition until 15 August at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gorman House, Canberra.

You can view the Innerspace catalogue here…