by Helen Schell

The Observatories project was started as part the Space-Time Laboratory, when I was resident artist at Durham University's Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics in 2010, where I created a series of small telescope-like objects to view cosmic phenomena using illusionary techniques. I have continued to make them and this year on a residency for the Festival of the North East in UK, I designed and created a ‘very large book’ – Observatory, which features stylised painted images of telescopes associated with space exploration in the north east. This included researching the history of the area, starting with the Venerable Bede, who wrote ‘The Reckoning of Time’ (Latin: De temporum ratione), an Anglo-Saxon era treatise written in Latin, in 725 AD. The treatise includes an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight, and how the seasonal motion of the Sun and the Moon influenced the changing appearance of the new moon at evening twilight. He noted the changes of the tides at a given place and the daily motion of the Moon. The Observatory project goes right up to the current dynamic work at Durham University, where they are creating optical components for the James Webb Telescope, the Extremely Large Telescope and the Cherenkov Telescope Array.

Glass Observatories:
These Observatories draw on theories about peering into space and making judgements about such things as dark matter and dark energy. They reflect the devices that are created to view space phenomena, such as telescopes and observatories. These objects are made from glass, mirrors and lenses using optical illusions to invent objects with a certain outside appearance and an entirely different visual notion on the inside, which I now call ‘Opeeptics’. They echo the Victorian ideas of table top curiosities and have an old fashioned quality about them whilst representing the most recent scientific theories and events about space exploration and the cosmos.


Schell venus transitTransit of Venus


Schell dark matterDark Matter Detector (exterior view) 2010


Schell dark matter 2Dark Matter Detector (interior view) 2010


Schell blood moon
Blood Moon Observatory (exterior view) 2010


Schell blood moon2-tileBlood Moon Observatory (interior views) 2010


Schell helioscpe-tileHelioscope (interior views) 2011


Schell  observatory book
Observatory Book 2013


Schell  observatory book4



Schell  observatory book2-tile


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