One of the first things I did in the House Gallery was make a layered set of illustrations of views of the universe. The ancient Greek mathematician Ptolemy realised the Earth was a sphere but thought it was at the centre of the universe and that all of the planets orbited around it. He said the Sun was where the Earth is. He couldn’t see clearly beyond Saturn. 1500 odd years later, Copernicus figured out, (with flat earth carried by turtle theories in between) that the Earth wasn’t at the centre of the universe, or even the solar system. Nowadays we realise everything’s much more complicated than we might have thought. This is shown with a diagram of the timeline of the universe after the big bang showing how everything that exists is set in the context of space time. I used different coloured chalk to illustrate these different views of the universe and show how they have changed with time.
I wasn’t that taken with the end result and don’t really have much to say about it, so I put the Big Bang timeline on there, over the top of it. It was almost as if the complexity of the big bang eclipsed what had been before. Those old views pale away a little.
As a companion piece to that, I painted a canvas the same shade of grey as the base grey of the one with the diagrams on it. This canvas was supposed to represent nothing. I was thinking about the moment before the big bang, before the other canvas, when there was nothing but nonetheless there was a loaded (infinite?) density located at a singular point. That’s probably a really bad way of describing it. Mind you, no-one seems to have the foggiest idea what was there at that precise millisecond anyway so I can’t be doing too badly. Roll on ye CERN Large Hadron Collider experiments.
They were both supposed to look a bit like slate. They were supposed to remind you a bit of school, or at least an idea of school. I also liked the idea of the canvas being reminiscent of that coldness, hardness and weight that slate has. Ideally I’d have just used slate. That would no doubt have been pricey though. But I may yet get some so watch this space. I just like the idea of something looking like it’s been covered in thoughts and ideas many times over and these ideas have been drawn and erased over a longer period than anyone can remember. Here, we have the age old question of the aura again. You’re not going to get that beautiful weight and coldness on a website. You won’t feel like you can smell it.
The blank grey canvas didn’t look like nothing though. It looked quite full. I’m not sure what it looked full of. Just about anything, I think. The illustration of this duality between everything that exists and the nothingness/possibility that came from is important, I think. I’ve got more to write about the physics of all of this. It could probably do with being explored generally.
To conclude about the two canvases generally, I didn’t like the single canvas, but got a lot more interested when the grey one was introduced. I liked the tension between them. In between the two I begin to wonder where the universe came from. What made the big bang happen?