Exhibition essay by Annelies Jahn

Order and Space, 220 Creative Space | Gallery - 2018


Conditions are not invariable; terms are not nal.
Thus the wise man looks into space, and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too much;
for he knows that there is no limit to dimension.[1]

– Chuang Tzu (4th century BC) 


Tim Corne’s cosmological investigations and curiosity with the complexities of contemporary astrophysics bring to mind the fundamental questions of – the who, what, when, why and how of – the universe and ultimately of ourselves.  By engaging with early forms of scienti c and philosophical research, he interprets and condenses these complexities into order and intimacy.  Rendering the sublime benign.  Aligned with an 18th and 19th century de nition of the sublime – rather than that of 21st century of awe and fear – it is based in the processes of knowledge, understanding and reconciling the world around us.

Visions formed by the Cambridge Neo-Platonist Henry More, in his 1646 philosophical poem, Democritus Platonissans, still resonate as we look into the nocturnal sky:

With sprinkled starres, what can you well devize

Which causen may such carelesse order in the skies?

A peck of peasen rudely poured out...

Which lie all carelesse scattered abot,
To sight do in as seemly order stond,
As those fair glittering lights in heaven are found...

Henry More then provides a solution to nding order within the apparent chaos. 

With better art, and easily have mended
This harsh disord’red order, and more beauty lend

This disorder mended into order is seen in Corne’s pair of works Such careless order in the skies, and it’s pendant, Ordered order thus here lies.  In the first we see a grid, over which re ective silvery dots of various sizes are applied.  They hover in space in a seemingly random fashion, as a representation of known universe. In the second work, the dots now applied as gold are shifted minutely, adhering to the formalities of the underlying grid.  The universe ordered and schematic.

Tim re-orders the universe utilizing scienti c data and current astrophysics mapping as reference material and in doing so re ects the process of the 18th century artist Thomas Wright in his 1750 book, An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe.[3]  Like the poet Henry More, Wright wrote of the “regular irregulatory of objects” as he sought to reconcile scienti c knowledge with con icting religious ideas on the nature of the heavens.  In doing so he added to scienti c knowledge and in uenced philosophers such as Immanuel Kant.[4]

Wright’s multiple solutions, mappings and diagrams have informed Tim’s work.  Utilizing mathematical patterns Corne has conflated these logics with religious iconography into a series of works in the form of Kiots.  A kiot traditionally being a special box or case for an icon, which protects the icon and also serves to ornament it.  The intimate Redrafted Ambrotype series, objects originally used in the 19th century to house small and intimate portraits, now carry small celestial universes, which t in your hand or your pocket.

In re-purposing these old icon and familial frames, Tim reverses the all too common instinct to communicate the overwhelming, complex ideas and theories of the universe into equally overpowering work.  Instead he seeks to contain these large concepts within the intimacy of a hand-held object.

Corne’s Kiots are highly crafted, using traditional water-gilding techniques from orthodox monks, he has fastidiously re-gilded their inner frames.  They carry with them the mystery and history of religious reverie.  As devotional objects they do not diminish the power of the data contained within the work.  These large ideas, which are beyond our comprehension, remain mystic and sublime with beauty, yet devoid of fear or terror.  Certainly, small is not too little, when looking into Tim Corne’s Ambrotypes.  In the partial erasure of the original portrait and masking it with elemental ancient forms of what we see in the night sky, Tim forms a conduit between our contemplating mind and the very stuff of which we ourselves are made.  He presents us with what is at once unknown yet familiar.

In his own process of tackling the sublime, Corne also reflects that the reader or viewer in engaging with any artwork, is opening themselves to another world.  Exposed to new ideas and perspectives.  In entering into that relationship, art is asking the viewer to conquer their fear, and be with the benign sublime. 


[1.] Chuang Tzy, ch. xvii (4th century BC), quoted in Keith Critchlow, Order in Space, a design source book, London: Thames and Hudson, first published 1969, 2000. 3

[2.] Henry More, ‘Democritus Platonissans, or, An Essay upon the In nity of Worlds out of Platonick Principles’, in Complete Poems of Dr. Henry More, ed. Alexander Grosart, Blackburn 1878, p.96.

[3.] Thomas Wright, An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, published 1750 (New York, New York, MacDonald Eiesevier, 1971)

[4.] Michael Benson, Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, (New York, NY: Abrams, 2014), 13,14.