About South-Crux Shared Sky

Felicity Spear Artist

South-Crux, a print loaned to the National Gallery of Victoria by Felicity Spear for the exhibition Shared Sky 2009

This image was constructed using digital manipulation in ‘Photoshop’ from a selection of material found and edited by the artist. These included layered fragments of maps, photographs, diagrams and digital models. The layering process references a long tradition of printmaking and mapmaking.

South-Crux refers to the sky and our position in the Southern Hemisphere and the powerfully symbolic formation of the Southern Cross. The layers consist of a number of different image fragments. These include a time lapse star trail image titled, ‘Moonset over the Warrumbungles’, photographed by the photographer and astronomer David Malin at the Anglo Australian Observatory. Other layers include a fragment from Andrea Corsali’s early map ‘Ovalle Historia–Reyno de Chile’ 1646, (including the Southern Cross constellation titled ‘El Cruzero’), held in the Crux Collection of Rare Maps at the State Library of New South Wales, as well as a section of an infrared x-ray of an early Hondius globe revealing its crossed armature and its internal and external condition before repair, found in Paper Conservation at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, U.K.

The gore shaped images reference the traditional method of transferring a map to a sphere where paper sections, (roughly boat shaped), on which the map, (either celestial or terrestrial), is printed, are then glued around the globe after its construction. These shapes also reference the time zones or degrees east or west of Greenwich into which a globe is divided. At the base of South is a linear diagram, an elliptical figure of eight, referencing an analemma, the equation of time, which represents the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit as it circles the sun. The centre of the figure eight represents the equinoxes, and the extremes represent the solstices. The red vertical lines reference the processes of data collection through lightwave and remote sensing technology, crossing the image like a machine produced mark. These are juxtaposed with the hand drawn waves of the earlier Corsali map, a different form of data collection. Finally, the colours permeating the whole image refer to infra red x-ray imaging.

Living away from the glare of the city, the artist, on her nightly walk is able to see the Southern Cross on most nights of the year as it shifts across the sky. The print alludes to the technical processes of observation, image capture and the mapping of the night sky, a remote space, mostly beyond the full range of our senses. It also references the mystery of the night sky and the way in which we attempt to understand the universe and locate ourselves within it. The night sky is made comprehensible through telescopes and technologies associated with a range of light in the electromagnetic spectrum. South-Crux is a synthetic and imagined map. Mapping is always embedded in the subjective conditions of human thinking. This work explores the way in which ideas in a scientific context can be transferred into works of art for a more poetic reading.

This print has been exhibited previously in a touring exhibition in the U.K. titled ‘Which Way Is Up?’ with Sarah Winfrey, at Fermynwoods Contemporary Art Gallery in 2005, and the University of Hertfordshire Art and Design Gallery in 2005/6, and at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne, in the solo exhibition ‘A Remote Possibility’, 2006, where it was priced at $3,000.00. The print has been exhibited unframed and pinned to the wall only at the top left and right corners.