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Awakenings IV, 2020, sculptural installation, Artweek Auckland, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Pa

Awakenings IV, 2020 installation, Artweek Auckland, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland, NZ 7m x 2m x 2m


Luminary I Luminare explores relationships between form, colour, light, space and sound, contributing to conversations on connections between abstraction and spiritual experience. The work seeks to evoke the unfathomable mystery and beauty of cosmic phenomena, and act as a potential threshold into the terrain of the numinous. The exhibition includes the use of spherical and circular forms in sculptural and photographic works that reflect artist Karen Sewell’s interest in celestial bodies and sacred geometries. Here, the original use of the term ‘luminary’ references natural light-giving bodies, cosmic or celestial. A luminary can also be a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere.

Locating this installation in the context of Venice – with its sacred sites and religious historical contexts for viewing art – the project speaks to histories of religious art in a contemporary way. The veiling of the sphere in translucent fabric references the veil between the earth and the heavens, between the seen and unseen realms. Sewell’s foregrounding of the everyday materials of her works’ construction also suggests moments of access between the material and the intangible. Photographic works are lumen prints made at the dawn of day. These recast found and everyday materials (polystyrene balls from a do-it-yourself set of our solar system and glass paperweights) as celestial bodies hovering in deep space. The resulting compositions evoke the cosmos, and for some, perhaps the earliest representations of our solar system.


The sound component in this installation is created from NASA Voyager recordings made in deep space around the planets and moons of our solar system. This information, when sent back to Earth and decoded, can be heard as enigmatic and intriguing sounds from space – the music of the spheres. Sewell’s interest in levitation, a quality suggested by her suspension of forms appearing to hover in space, is influenced by ideas of ascension and transcendence, and conduits between the material and ethereal realms. She aspires to draw viewers’ attention to look and think beyond the material – and into the realm of feeling – in order to experience the possibilities of wonder.

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