The Aesthetics of Cosmology:  visualising thinking about the universe 

Masters of Fine Arts Research Thesis, Tim Corne - 2017



My research examines depictions of the universe and its workings.  It explores the visual codex of maps, diagrams and patterns that are used to help people understand the structure of the heavens.  These depictions include images of mathematical theories about the nature of the cosmos, diagrams, maps and charts of the universe, stars and galaxies.  Here, I focus on three key examples of artworks that engage with changing ideas about and technologies for observing the universe: Ludovico Cardi’s (known as Cigoli) fresco of the Madonna (1610 – 1612) standing on the moon as observed by Galileo, Thomas Wright’s illustrations of his theories of the structure of the universe (1750), and Ryoji Ikeda’s light and sound works made up of re-presented electronic data (2012 -2015).  Each of these artworks is historically significant and demonstrates the importance of art in visualising and communicating scientific knowledge.  


My body of work, discussed here in relation to historic and contemporary representations of the cosmos, is an aesthetic response to ideas and mathematical theories about black holes, dark matter, and predictions of the future of our galaxy.  It also responds to grid dot patterns and mathematical number sequences such as the Fibonacci sequence and Ulam spiral as well as star maps of constellations.  This group of small, handmade objects combines the enormity of the universe with the domestic scale of photographs and icon boxes. It attempts to bring the aesthetic experience of the cosmos within reach, bridging the gap between astronomy and everyday life. In this sense, it explores the significance of aesthetics in conceptualising the universe and satisfying the eternal desire to find order and beauty in the world around us.