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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

It’s full of stars: ‘Beyond Ourselves’ art exhibition at the Royal Society

The constant and changing process of discovering the world is at the heart of ‘Beyond Ourselves’, the new art exhibition at the Royal Society. Big questions come with looking at the stars.

Written by Jessica Furseth


All matter is the same – Geraldine Cox

The little sculpture seems to be made of paper, page like those slightly porous egg cartons, sildenafil and the shape brings to mind Luke Skywalker’s home on the planet Tatooine. I have no idea what to make of it before it occurs to me to peer in through the little hole. And then everything changes – the odd little thing is bursting with stars, pill it’s like the entire night sky exists inside. I look down at the programme and there it is: ‘It’s full of stars’, it’s even the title of the piece. Ah! Very clever, Chris Dunseath. This is the Royal Society, over there is a piece of Newton’s apple tree, and we are all, quite literally, startdust.


It’s full of stars – Chris Dunseath

Beyond Ourselves’ presents six contemporary artists, showing their work at the Royal Society just by St. James’s Park. Scientific inquiry is the heart and soul of the Royal Society, whereas art is usually a more subjective matter; what they have in common is that both scientists and artists are trying to make sense of the world.


Philosophers’ notepads – Sam Knowles

Sam Knowles has made stars out of exercise books, fanning them out on the wall. The programme talks about the self-reflection and absurdity that follows as science and philosophy theories are constantly revised and debunked; it’s even possible our perception of reality is flawed because the universe may be so much more complex and extraordinary than we can ever imagine. Whoa. Maybe all knowledge is temporary, I think as I walk up the stairs. And there are all these philosophical theories out there, but most people have hardly read any of them and so we just walk around making our own. Do we make up the same ones? Hm. … You can’t help but have these kinds of thoughts in a place that has stars in jars.


Untitled – David Rickard

The Royal Society originated as an ‘invisible college’ of natural philosophers, and last year celebrated its 350th anniversary. Upstairs are busts of Newton and pals, angels on the ceiling and the smell of old books. But this is not a museum: today’s papers are stacked on a shelf, presumably overseen by the addressee, librarian Rupert Baker. In the hall are photo albums from the Royal Society Sleeping Sickness Commission in Uganda in 1908: ‘Natives making sun-baked bricks for building our laboratory’, the picture caption reads, ‘Kasu, Nyasaland’. Further up are examples of research discussed at recent Society meetings: ‘The new science of aging’, ‘Handling uncertainty in science’, ‘The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society’. According to the study, 44% of us are believers.


The Royal Society

Sam Knowles’ other piece, ‘The approach to painting’, is a beautiful tiny little thing, tucked away in the stairwell. It’s a page of a book, painted with the night sky. There are stars everywhere in this exhibition, kept safe indoors as the London light-pollution means we don’t get to see many stars in their natural habitat. Outside it is still warm, the sky is a dense, deep blue and there is not a speck of starlight. Big Ben and the London Eye are lit up, and red, green and yellow lights flash from an airplane passing overhead. I really want to go find a field somewhere and see the real stars, but as I carry my bike back down the stars to the park I’m thinking maybe this city is so vast we don’t really need the stars to make us feel … whatever it is stars make us feel. I don’t know what it is but I know it’s something.


The approach to painting – Sam Knowles

Beyond Ourselves’ is at the Royal Society until 24th June – see our listing for details.

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