Curiosities from outer space on Courtenay Place

1 March 2016

New Courtenay Place Light box exhibition From the Aether will showcase Wellington artists whose interest in amateur science has been brought together in a cabinet of curiosities. Opening in April, From the Aether features Jonathan Kay, Shaun Matthews and Bonny Stewart-MacDonald – artists who explore the physical world through easily accessible science.

Light image of micrometeorite

Micrometeorite by Jonathan Kay

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Jonathan Kay has swept Courtenay Place with a magnetic broom to collect the meteor dust that falls around us every day, which he has then photographed through a microscope.  Shaun Matthews’ work uses chromatography to separate the different shades of chlorophyll within native plants, exploring the way these plants respond to light.  Bonny Stewart-MacDonald explores a collection of nineteenth century slides, making the microscopic huge and shrinking the huge to microscopic size.

“It’s great seeing the curator and artists working together take advantage of the fantastic opportunity the Light boxes present, says Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Portfolio Leader for Economic Growth and Arts, “In this context it’s a new approach, but it really reflects the collaborative nature of the Wellington arts community”

The cabinet of curiosities or kunstkammer was a phenomenon popular in Renaissance Europe, where collections of objects and ephemera were collected together.  The kunstkammer was seen as a microcosm of the world, symbolically showing the collector’s control over it. 

From the Aether celebrates a love of exploring the world around us through easily accessible science” says curator Caroline McQuarrie.  “All three artists have a background in photography, and a fascination with how we use technology to image the natural world.  An earlier era is being celebrated; when the amateur scientist could be at the top of their field, and natural wonders were documented, collected and sometimes gathered together into cabinets of curiosities. From the Aether celebrates scientific categorisation, but also questions it, suggesting that we might lose perspective if we look too close”.

The artists will be running a free workshop for children aged 7-11yrs on Tuesday 12 July during the school holidays. Participants will be able to collect their own meteor dust, and experiment with chromatography.