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Monthly Archives: September 2014

So what are my painting of astronomical objects really about??  That’s a difficult question for me to answer but it all started with fossils and thinking about deep time.  I then looked for spatial equivalents to the fossils that I had collected:  objects from which light had originated at the same time that my fossils were alive on Earth.

For example:

Galaxy NGC7814, located in the constellation Pegasus, is 47 million light years away. Extinct fossil, Venericardia planicosta, that was alive 47 million years ago.

Of course, dealing in deep time means that there can be massive rounding errors in the order of millions of years!

Although fossils and deep time are still of great interest, using astronomical images has lead me into another areas of interest. My question is – When we look at a Hubble Image, for example, what exactly are we looking at?  Many of the ‘objects’ in these images would be invisible to the naked eye.  You cannot ‘photograph’ a fart!  This begs the question – what is an object?

I have also become very interested in the mathematics of imaging.  Particularly the process of image compression and the fantastic and exciting patterns that this process can produce.

 

 

My resident astronomer is now providing a lot of photographs of nebula that are visible from the UK.  These include:

The Ring Nebula, M57 in the constellation Lyra, is a planetary nebula formed when a red giant evolves towards becoming a white dwarf.  Hubble reveals more information about the structure of The Ring Nebula.  M57 is located in our galaxy about 2000 light years from Earth.

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The Ring Nebula

The North American Nebula, NGC7000, located approximately 1600 light years from Earth:  There is quite a lot of information from NASA about imaging the North American Nebula in different lights.

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North American Nebula

The Apple Core Nebula, also know as The Dumbbell Nebula or M27 is approximately 1360 light years from Earth:

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The Apple Core Nebula

This is the object that I’m planning to use for my next painting but not a direct translation.  I’m interested in the pattern that emerge when JPEG images are compressed.  I did two rounds of severe compression using GIMP and produced the following image:

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The Apple Core Nebula

I had some conversion problems when converting tiffs to jpegs and this is a reminder to lower the bit depth:   It was difficult to change the tiff format to a JPEG using Photoshop ( a very old version) until I lowered the bits from 16 to 8 in the mode dialogue.

M57, NGC7000 and M27 are all located within our own galaxy.  What I really need are images of extra-galactic objects that are many millions of light years away.  There are plenty of images available on the internet but gathering this information ourselves is a project for the future.

 

Zaluzianskya (night phlox)

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Zaluzianskya during the late afternoon.

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Zaluzianskya – tea-time

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Zaluzianskya – pre-dusk

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Zaluzianskya at dusk

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Zaluzianskya – almost dark, releasing scent

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Zaluzianskya – releases it’s scent after dark.

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Pleiades painting finished for now. The painting now needs to dry for a few weeks.

I visited The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution’s exhibition ‘Jurassic Ark‘ yesterday.  Featuring fossils from the Lower Jurassic of Strawberry Bank, Ilminster it was interesting to see the actual specimens.

The fossils were discovered inside nodules:

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Fossil containing nodule from Strawberry Bank, Ilminster

‘The fossilized marine reptiles, fish, crustaceans, cephalopods  and insects show exceptional preservation with anatomic features that are very rarely preserved.’ (from the Jurassic Ark leaflet)

 

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Lepidotus fossil (about 18 inches long)

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Pachycormus tail fin – exceptional preservation

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Juvenile Stenopterygius triscissus.

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The room where this superb exhibition was staged.

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Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution

Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution

These fossils have been dated as Toarcian, about 183 million years old using the zone fossil Harpoceras falciferum that defines the age of the succeeding zone.  I’ve picked up specimens of Harpoceras falciferum around Ilminster and they are dated at 181 million years old.  The country rock of the Strawberry Bank fossils looks very similar to the rocks in the fields around Ilminster.  I have never seen any nodules.

‘The fossils from Strawberry Bank represent an almost complete Lower Jurassic near-shore ecosystem.’  (Lagerstatte) (from the Jurassic Ark leaflet)

This is a nice bit of kit:

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Airnimal

Airnimal

 

Just finished reading Nijinsky:  A Life by Lucy Moore.  Very easy to read Moore’s account charts Nijinsky s life from ballet genius into madness.  Nijinsky danced and choreographed for the Ballets Russes, an avant guard and influential dance troupe at the beginning of the 20th century ( early modernist).  Judith Flanders reviews ‘Nijinsky’ for The Telegraph newspaper and provides a precis of the book’s contents.

Nice artwork on the cover of Nijinsky:  A Life:

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Nijinsky: A Life by Lucy Moore

Not sure about the font though – it looks more like a post-modern font, sans serif, but it does suit the image.  Curves in the J and Y echo the curves of the body.

Another visit to the Ilminster area revealed further outcrops of the highly fossiliferous Beacon Limestone Formation .  The Beacon Limestone contains an astonishing quantity of ammonite fossils.These sedimentary rocks are Pliensbachian – Toarcian in age ie. 176 – 190 million years old.

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Ten minute fossil hunt in Ilminster – ammonites, belemnites and barnacles.

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Close up of fossils shows some have a black tegumen. There is also evidence of barnacle attachment indicating that ammonites were not immediately buried in sediment.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution currently have an exhibition, Jurassic Ark, that celebrates their collection of fossils from the Lower Jurassic of Strawberry Bank, Ilminster.  This is part of The Jurassic Ecosystem of Strawberry Bank Ilminster (JESBI) project.

I have just read The Grammar of Contemporary Art by Joshua Johnson that highlights the bind that contemporary art appears to have got itself into.  From The Parallel Artspace website:

‘Joshua Johnson (b. 1981) is a New York based artist born in Cadillac, Michigan. His diverse practice spans sculpture, installation, video and philosophy, with a particular interest in the body and post-capitalist functionalism . He has presented work at Bureau Inc., Louis B. James, and Martos Gallery, among others. He organized and edited Dark Trajectories, a volume of philosophy with contributions from Reza Negarestani, Levi Bryant, et al., which was published by [NAME] (2013). He was a resident artist at the Fiskar’s AiR program in Finland and received an MFA from Hunter College (both 2011).’

New Exhibition of Constable’s work at the V & A sounds interesting.  Adrian Searle reviews the exhibition for The Guardian newspaper.  From Searle’s review, talking about Constable, ‘He thought of painting as a science, a way of understanding the world.’  Constable also seemed to have a way with words:   ‘Constable once remarked that a self-taught painter is taught by a very ignorant person.’

 

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Scaled up version of Pleiades oil painting

Returned to work on my scaled up version of the Pleiades oil painting.  Most of a the paint had dried whilst I was away except the matt black areas where I’d mixed the paint with a bit of oil and beeswax.  This will take ages to dry but should give a matt surface. Working into the painting has begun to make it ‘light up’ and it looks a bit more lively than it did a couple of weeks ago.  I do feel that I need to have a good think about the formal aspects of this work ie. what am I doing and why am I doing it?

I’m making progress with reading Capital in the twenty-first century.  Picketty’s writing is easy to follow and by analysing historical economic datasets he is able to frame our current position and even makes suggestions as to how to create a more equal world.

I have just collected Thomas Picketty’s breeze block sized book, Capital in the twenty-first century, from the library.  Paul Mason summarizes Picketty’s book for The Guardian newspaper HERE.  Reading Picketty’s book is going to require a monster sized effort!  According to Paul Mason ‘Piketty’s Capital, unlike Marx’s Capital, contains solutions possible on the terrain of capitalism itself:……………….

Also listened to this talk by Amanda Beech ‘The Flood of Rights‘ but I need to listen again to unpick exactly what she’s saying.

Just back from a 13 day, 438 mile cycle ride in France.  Fantastic weather, perfect for cycling.  Saw The Apocalypse Tapestry in the Chateau at Angers.  Fantastic set of medieval French  tapestries depicting the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations.   Several numbers reoccur in the the Book of Revelations, from Wikipedia:

Literary structure[edit]

Revelation is made up of four visions plus introduction and epilogue), each involving John “seeing” the plan of God unveiled. It is also structured around the significant number seven: seven messages, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls (of judgment), seven supernatural persons and seven “new things”.[23]

While several numbers stand out—3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 24, 144, 1000—the number seven appears to have a special significance.[24]Seven is considered the number of perfection in Christianity.[25] One half of seven, 3½, is also a conspicuous number in Revelation: two witnesses are given power to prophesy 1,260 days, or exactly 3½ years, according to the Hebrew year of 360 days;[11:3] the witnesses are then killed, and their dead bodies lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3½ days;[11:9] the “woman clothed with the sun” is protected in the wilderness for 1,260 days, or 3½ years;[12:6] Gentiles tread the holy city underfoot for 42 months, or 3½ years;[11:2] and the beast is given authority to continue for 42 months, or 3½ years.[13:5]Comparison of the chiastic divisions and content help to define the progression and themes of the book and to highlight details of particular importance.

The rhetor’s sources/influences likely include Zechariah (opening chapters), the Jewish Menorah and the structure of John’s Gospel (seven sections, each of twelve parts).[26]

I count quite a lot when I’m cycling, mainly when I’m cycling uphill.  Numbers seem to be quite important in my life!

It occured to me during this trip that maybe I should be counting down in this blog instead of counting up.

I’ve also been thinking about how French culture informs Quentin Meillasoux’s ideas. (The French philospopher who Amanda Beech introduced me to).