Earth/Sky reveals treasures in the NGA’s collection that speak to earth’s place in the cosmos. The display explores artists’ unerring fascination with the natural world, including the celestial realms, and asks questions of our relationship to outer space and our position as a species on this planet. Many of the works in this exhibition have never been displayed.
The sky is a rich source of inspiration for the art of all cultures. For many Indigenous Australians, this realm is inhabited by ancestors whose actions affect those living on earth below. The Indigenous works in this display also depict creation myths relating to the formation of the stars, moon and sun.
In the nineteenth century, artists newly arrived in Australia from Europe portrayed southern skies, charting shooting comets, constellations, and movement of planets in finely made drawings and illustrated books. Today, contemporary artists still find rich inspiration in the fluctuating colours and immeasurable space of the sky as it endlessly circles from day into night.
Other works convey the experience of living on earth, a place of extreme diversity that holds the smallest of animals like dragonflies and the grandest of trees. Working across a diverse range of media, many artists wonder at the energy and beauty of nature while also examining its fragility, delicacy and remarkable potential for renewal. For some, earth is a symbolically laden place where plants come to acquire national and cultural significance; for others it is an uncertain, fluctuating realm tied closely to memory and individual meaning.