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.

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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

Shooting Stars

This story comes from Kristyn, an amazing force energy and enthusiasm whom I was lucky enough to meet in Berlin. The story is about the Leonids meteor shower, which occurs every year in mid November.

Meteor showers happen when Earth’s orbit crosses the path of a meteor. Meteors leave a trail of debris (bits of dust, ice and stone) behind them as they travel on their own orbits. When these bits of debris hit our atmosphere they burn up and we see them shoot through the night sky as falling stars.

When the Earth crosses the path of a meteor that has only recently passed by, there are more bits of debris floating around, and therefore, more shooting stars. These heavy meteor showers are called meteor storms. After doing a little research, we discovered that the meteor shower of Kristyn’s story was probably the Leonids meteor storm of 1998.

This story is part of the Stargazers project for which I am collecting stories about stars. If you have a story that you would like to share with me then please get in touch!

Music: Alaupas

Stargazers

Star Gazing

Claire Pendrigh, Stargazing (Perseid Meteor Shower), 2016, still from digital animation

We are all made from star stuff, so is it really that surprising that so many of us look to the night sky and feel some kind of connection?

Everyone has access to the night sky, it can not be owned, annexed or restricted to a select few. Anyone can be a stargazer.

The points of light we see in the night sky are the centre of a great many stories; stories of culture, navigation, exploration, science, history and understanding. They have been used to pass on legends, moral tales, cultural histories, navigational routes, and scientific theories. They are bestowed with personal significance for individuals and groups of people.

Gazing into the cosmos reminds us that our existence is small. We share this tiny planet, surrounded by the infinite expanse of our universe. But our stories are important. They locate us within this expanse, and present a framework by which we can analyse and understand this position.

Stargazers is a project in which I hope to collect many stories about stars, and use them to create short animated works. These stories may encompass a wide variety of contexts including scientific, cultural, navigational, personal, anecdotal and historical, but they will all pertain to a specific point of light (or constellation) in the night sky. Ultimately, the stories will be linked together by a navigable sky map.

I am currently on the look out for stories and narrators! If you would like to get involved then please contact me. I am interested to hear all types of stories about stars, astronomical bodies, constellations etc. If your story is a good fit for the project then I will ask you to narrate it for me and email me the audio. I will then make a painting and an animation for your story.

Star Stuff

Claire Pendrigh, Star Stuff (Omega Nebula), 2016, still from digital animation

Tea Seas at BRAG

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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

Tea Seas at Studio Kura

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Here are some photos from the opening of “Tea Seas” at Studio Kura in March 2015. It was such a lovely event, filled with smiles, children, and yummy onigiri!

Thank you to all the wonderful people at Studio Kura, especially my lovely fellow artists, for the time I’ve spent here. I feel so lucky to have met you all and to have enjoyed your company for the two months of my residency.

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Tea Seas

Invite

Tea Seas uses imagery of a primordial sea contained within a teacup to explore human existence, both in the context of the domestic and of the universe. This body of work has been created during my two-month artist residency with Studio Kura, Itoshima, Japan.

Tea is a very human beverage. It embodies society, community, hospitality and ritual – social elements that are key to our human existence. Tea is a way to connect with people and open conversations on a domestic scale, but tea can also present a connection to the human existence on far a greater stage.

The water in your teacup is one part of the finite quantity of water we have on Earth. This water changes form, but it is never replenished. The water in your teacup is the same water that flowed in the blood of dinosaurs, and it is the same water from a primordial sea, which may have nursed the first living cells on Earth.

Our natural environment is full of structured patterns, which swing between states order and disorder. Living organisms have the ability to organize. We order elements, arrange cells into complex patterns, build societies and construct rituals.

Just as the circle of your teacup echoes the shape of the cells in your body, it also mirrors the shape of this pale blue dot that we inhabit. Somewhere in the space between order and entropy, is the everyday existence that we know – our work, hobbies, families, and all the interpersonal relationships that we facilitate over a cup of tea.

Taking its cues from the Japanese tea ceremony, Tea Seas follows a ritualistic process of repetition and restraint in order to explore this precarious human existence.

Tea Seas will be exhibited at the Studio Kura Gallery on 28 and 29 March 2015.

Tea in Itoshima

Tea Seas (Red) detail.
Tea Seas (Red) detail.

It is nearly the end of February and I am now half way through my artist residency at Studio Kura in Itoshima, Japan. It has been an interesting and experience so far, and has pushed the boundaries my artistic comfort zone. I have set myself the challenge of working with a new set of materials – powdered pigments and rice paper. Having quizzed the very helpful but non-English speaking staff at the art supplies store, I now have a set of instructions, mostly in the form of drawings, for how to mix and use the pigments.

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All the beautiful colours of powdered pigments.

I am living in a traditional Japanese house, which seems to be built entirely from wood and paper. It does not hold the heat at all, and I often have to open all the doors and windows to let in the warmer-than-inside winter air. The residency is in a semi-rural area, surrounded by farms, forests and ocean. I have taken up weekly Japanese language classes in town, but am making painfully slow progress!

Working on a painting in the studio while one of the other residency artists films my paintbrush.
Working on a painting in the studio while one of the other residency artists films my paintbrush.

During the two months of my residency, I am exploring the theme of tea. Japan is renown through out the world for its tea culture, and as an avid tea drinker myself, I just had to come and find out more about what tea means to people in contemporary Japan.

I see tea as a very human beverage. It embodies society, community, hospitality and ritual – social elements that are key to our human existence. Tea is a way to connect with people and open conversations on a domestic scale, but tea can also present a connection to the human existence on far a greater stage.

The water in your cup of tea is just one part of the finite quantity of water we have on Earth. This water changes form, but it is never replenished. The water in your teacup is the same water that that flowed in the blood of dinosaurs, and it is the same water from a primordial sea, which may have nursed the first living cells on Earth. If this water could remember, it would remember all of humanity from the earliest living cells to the complex, tea drinking, societies that we have today.

My work from the residency program will be exhibited in the Studio’s gallery, housed in a converted, one hundred year old rice silo, in late March. I’ll keep you posted with the details!

"24 Cups of Tea" (detail)
“24 Cups of Tea” (detail)