Claire Pendrigh

Clouds, mountains, ice crystals and celestial maps; my work is heavily influenced by the physical aspects of the universe around me.

I am interested in parallels between scientific research and artistic research; as similar ways of observing, recording and analysing with a common aim of better understanding the universe. I use this research process in my own work to explore natural phenomena as I attempt to locate the individual in this boarder, universal context.

Originally from Canberra, I studied at the Australian National University School of Art, majoring in Painting. After spending a year travelling and artmaking in Europe, I am now based in Bunbury, Western Australia.

I use a combination of different materials, but primarily work with painting and knitted installation.

During 2012, I completed a two-month artist residency in the small town of Skagaströnd in the north of Iceland, an experience that has had a considerable and lasting impact on my artistic practice. The paintings created during the residency explore a conversation between the two major elements of the Icelandic landscape, the sky and the earth.

The small, close-knit Skagaströnd community was set in an expansive landscape of snow and mountains. I started thinking about how the culture was intrinsically linked to the environment.

Using a call-and-response style methodology, I began each work with a bed of colour upon which triangular shapes, derived from the hexagonal form of ice crystals, were layered. These reflections lead me to begin knitting with the traditional Icelandic method of geometric patterns worked in rounds on five needles to create an installation of Lopi Mountains, ‘lopi’ being the un-spun Icelandic wool.

My current body of work, ‘Wonder’, has come into being through conversations with astrophysicist Melanie Hampel. These works explore a particular type of star, R Coronae Borealis (RCB). These stars occasionally eject clouds of carbon-rich dust, causing their magnitude to grow dimmer and then to brighten as the dust clears.

I found this phenomenon intriguing as it elates to the human body, the cells of which originated from stellar activity and are mostly carbon. I wanted to create a human connection to these stellar events by drawing parallels between the act of breathing and the stars exhalation of carbon clouds into space.

RCB Cloud is a knitted cloud formation that emits breathing sounds. The sound component follows the curve of observational data collected from the prototype RCB star. When the star is at its brightest the breathing is louder and faster and when the star is dimmer, the breathing becomes more subdued.

I have enjoyed the process of collaborating with a scientist and am planning similar collaborations in the future. The mutual learning that has occurred through this process has been exciting and fulfilling.

September, 2014
Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery, Fremantle

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