Simon Starling sets his sights on the stars

The Turner-Prize winner's new work draws from the southern hemisphere's late Great Melbourne Telescope
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From In Speculum (2013) by Simon Starling
From In Speculum (2013) by Simon Starling

At the time of its creation (1868) and installation (1869) The Great Melbourne Telescope at the Melbourne Observatory in Australia, was the world's second largest, only outclassed by the Rosse six-foot telescope in County Offaly, Ireland. It was decommissioned in 1945, and is currently undergoing restoration. However, the contemporary British artist Simon Starling is finding new insights into the Victorian telescope, in his soon to open Australian retrospective, In Speculum.

 

From In Speculum (2013) by Simon Starling
From In Speculum (2013) by Simon Starling

Starling, an artist who thoroughly disregards any distinction between the two cultures, has drawn from a wide array of scientific, historical and industrial inspirations. In his 2004 work, Tabernas Desert Run, he crossed a Spanish desert on an improvised moped producing water in its exhaust, which he then used to paint a watercolour; his 2012 show at the Kunsthalle Mulhouse, Trois cent cinquante kilogrammes par mètre carré, drew on the building's previous use as a foundry, with chopped-up, repurposed pieces of heavy machinery displayed alongside technical-style illustrations.

 

The bike from Tabernas Desert Run
The bike from Tabernas Desert Run

Simon Starling: In Speculum, opening this Thursday (July 18) at Monash University in Melbourne and touring the region later this year and next, promises both "the first career survey of the Turner Prize-winning artist's work in Australasia", but also a new commission, which engages with the Great Melbourne Telescope, which is currently being restored at Museum Victoria.

 

Simon Starling at Tate Britain for his Phantom Ride exhibition, 2012
Simon Starling at Tate Britain for his Phantom Ride exhibition, 2012

While exact details of Starling's new work haven't been thoroughly revealed ahead of its opening later this week, In Speculum clearly refers to the telescope's curved focusing mirror, or 'speculum'. The Great Melbourne Telescope's speculum was made in Ireland, before being shipped out to the antipodes, in order to examine certain nebulae visible only in the northern hemisphere. Initial images from Starling's project appear to focus more on the device itself than the celestial sights it brought into view. Whatever the case, we're certain visitors will be able to take in a work that responds to local historical developments in an engaging, typically uncanny way. To find out more go here. To learn more about this important contemporary artist, please take a look at our monograph. And, before you buy, do sign up to our Phaidon Club to take advantage of some very special offers and events.


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