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.
Claire Pendrigh, An Intimate Universe, yarn and aluminium. Photo: Paul Webster
My most resent artwork, An Intimate Universe, is now on display at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries in the Bunbury Biennale. The work takes the form of a hanging mobile with woollen star-clouds suspended from each arm, slowly orbiting a central point.
Claire Pendrigh, An Intimate Universe (detail), yarn and aluminium. Photo: Sharon Kennedy
Nebulae are clouds of stars, dust and elements, drawn together and bound by gravity in a stellar family. Like a family, these environments create and nurture new stars and solar systems, and hence they are sometimes referred to as stellar nurseries. Our own galaxy, and everything in it, would have been created through this process. The elements required for stars, planets, life, and for our human bodies, were all forged from stardust. The DNA of my body has been passed down through generations of mothers. My mother taught me to knit, and her mother taught her; a skill, which like mitochondria, has been passed down maternally. An Intimate Universe explores the micro world of human relations and human existence, in the context of the cosmos. This work combines the internal and external, the familiar and the sublime, to make sense of our intimate relationship with stellar matter. You can read more about my work and the Bunbury Biennale in this lovely article by ABC South West. You can also download the online version of the Bunbury Biennale catalogue from the BRAG website.
A few months ago I met Mel. Mel was on the last leg of her Australian trip after completing a university exchange at ANU and was getting ready to return home to Germany. She studies astronomy, her Australian research focusing on a rare type of variable star called R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars. The more she spoke about these stars, the more intrigued I became, for RCB stars behave in quite a peculiar way. Every now and then the star ejects a large dust cloud which obscures it from view from earth, making it appear to grow dimmer and then brighter again when the dust has dispersed.
Given my ongoing interest in all things star dust, I had to explore it further.
Now, I will be honest with you, I am not an astronomer. Despite Mel’s excellent explanation attempts, it is highly probable that I will never fully grasp or understand this phenomenon – but for me, this is part of what attracts me to is as a subject. The coming together of scientific data, evidence, numbers and graphs with the sense of mystery and incomprehension of an event so far beyond the realm of the everyday is, in essence, what intrigues me about the experience of the sublime.
Since that first conversation with Mel, I have been working on a soft sculpture space cloud. Progress is slow with a great deal of fine knitting and stitching required. My aim is to incorporate RCB data collected and analysed by astronomers, and use it to create an object that explores the interplay between science and wonder. It’s going to be large, and it’s going to be shiny.