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Luminary Nelson Cathedral

Nelson Arts Festival 2023

Luminary I Luminare explores relationships between form, colour, light, space, aroma 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 this sculptural work that reflects 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.


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.


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. 


Included in the presentation of Luminary is an olfactory component (Light and Earth), a collaboration between Sewell and perfumery artist Juanita Madden. This bespoke blend of essential oils pivots around the grey hazy smoke of vetiver and  a touch of light, petitgrain and laurel leaf in the top notes. The blend has been crafted together aspiring to evoke a sense of the creation of light in the cosmos. As a whole the blend provides a grounding underpinning to this exhibit, encouraging a deepening of the breath and with this comes a sense of renewal.


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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