Orbit (2013)


O r b i t

Black pigment, graphite powder and pencil.

These drawings were made whilst I was writing an article about the narrative and histories of our understanding of matter in space. The article is about mutability and how we might understand the gravitational affect of densities of matter on each other.

Spheres are the resultant distribution of matter in an isotropic gravitational field, the lowest energy state in a gravitational system. The distributed matter within all astronomical objects is bound together under its own gravity. In looking into space we see other worlds as formed, solid, impenetrable, perfect and apart. Each world is delicately connected to the others and held in place by the gravitational attraction of each planet with its star and in smaller ways between each other.

In depicting the mutual effect that each bodily mass has on the other a dialogue is created between two or more bodies. Bergson, in linking matter to thought, likens matter to a form of consciousness, where everything is in a state of perfect equilibrium, balancing and stabilizing movement. Bergson speaks of matter as an immense body in which all elements act reciprocally on each other, all parts linked together in an ‘uninterrupted continuity’, the outlines or surface of objects a limit of perception and not the ‘porous and indefinite’ intensity of atoms, ‘solidity is far from being an absolutely defined state of matter’.

‘Between the supposed molecules of bodies the forces of attraction and repulsion are at work. The influence of gravitation extends throughout interplanetary space. Something then, exists between the atoms. It will be said that this something is no longer matter, but force. And we shall be asked to picture to ourselves, stretched between the atoms, threads which will be made more and more tenuous, until they are invisible and even, we are told, immaterial’.

Whilst making the drawings and researching the article I came across many early photographic examples or engravings where scientists and engineers attempted to make sense of very distant objects by looking for examples here on Earth. Magnification brings about an ambiguity regarding scale; at times there is a cellular aspect to the work. This shift of perspective, from the immense to the infinitesimal, reminds us of the unifying nature that the extension of our vision has had on our perception of matter, the vastness of space reflected in the miniature immensity of the intricacies of living things.

All quotes are from Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory, 1896.