Ever since I was a little girl the aesthetics of the universe had a Sisyphean hold on me. I owned many big books and encyclopedias about astronomy, where I was amazed by the way galaxies whirled and how bright and colourful nebulae always were. I looked at the planets on our solar system and learned their Roman names. Saturn’s rings, in particular, reminded me of a princess wearing her crown. And Jupiter – the king of all gods, isn’t he? – always looked pissed off to me.
I had lost that connection with astronomy as I grew up and nature – earth’s nature – took more of a hold on me. But by a personal Darwinian evolution I went from religiously watching David Attenborough documentaries to watching Professor Brian Cox. Attenborough’s natural heir. He re-kindled my infantile passion and sense of wonder at the great beyond. His Wonders series are a masterpiece in themselves. And when I feel that mixture of awe and curiosity the only way I can subdue that wonderful itch is to paint.
You can learn more about my cosmic nature paintings here.
How is one supposed to feel, knowing that we, on our pinprick of our blue planet, in our speck of dust under the cosmic carpet of our milky way, are hurtling through space and towards infinity, with absolutely no consolation except the knowledge that it’s actually happening.
I guess in a way, the art world is like an expanding universe. As soon as you get sucked in to it, it seems like there’s a never-ending, spinning web of ideas, styles, names, name-dropping, brush-bashing and social media platforms that making your impact in it seems infinitely impossible. The more time goes on, the more new -isms crawl out of the woodwork, and all of a sudden your left wondering where your place in the art universe is. The further away the galaxy from us, the faster it appears to be moving. Just as distant ideas and desires appear to be slipping away before we can ever hope to grasp them. As distance grows, speed increases.
But I think that, in the same way that there’s no true centre of the universe, only your perspective within it, there’s no universal law for art. There is nothing to stop us being the artist we want to be, or choosing any one of the multitude of paths we conceived for ourselves. The more we know about art and our universe, the more power we have within it, however slight. We have to admit though, that certain things are well beyond our control. By the non-randomness of particles slamming together at just the right distance from the sun, a lot of it is really down to luck.
And just as the universe, by some incomprehensible miracle, started from a single, infinitely small point (a singularity), art started in the same way. Long, long before we first painted in the caves, or scratched angular marks into a mammoth bone or reindeer antler, long before we even contemplated our sense of being, the spark was there. The one, fleeting, chance coming together of nothing, created everything.
It was nothing but non-random luck, that Stephen Hawking happened to be the surprising inspiration behind this blog post, and this painting of elephants against the milky way, though I am sure I didn’t do the expanding universe justice.