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Lisa Sammut: How the earth will approach you

28 June – 24 November 2024
10.00am – 5.00pm AEST
UNSW Galleries Cnr of Oxford St and Greens Rd, Paddington

Working across sculpture, video, and installation, Lisa Sammut’s practice oscillates between notions of cosmic perspective, belonging, connection, and time. ‘How the earth will approach you’ brings together recent works that explore the cosmos as a framework for understanding the dynamics, relations, and dimensions of our personal and social worlds.

Sammut draws on historic astronomical diagrams, illustrations, and manuscripts observing omens in celestial phenomena. Works also borrow from the visual language and performative qualities of GIF animations that document the movements and behaviours of comets. The exhibition brings human and cosmic worlds into close relationship, where understandings of the universe are formed in direct relation to ourselves. It considers human life in connection to transitions and cycles in the cosmos; the circular, orbital, elliptical, and eclipse.

The exhibition loops between the earthly and otherworldly, taking shape in the knowledge that our fate is intertwined with the events and laws of the universe. At the centre of the exhibition is the immersive installation FULL CIRCLE which incorporates objects, light, and moving image, with suspended structures intended to be viewed as drawings in space. It questions the notion that life moves in a straight line. Like the cyclical trajectories of comets, the circular perspective presents an alternate view, where a life is defined by a departure and a return. Linking cosmic and human timespans, Sammut proposes that the visualisation of a comet’s elliptical path illustrated within a simple image, brings a strange comfort.

Sammut has recently turned towards the medium of handmade glass, creating intimate, hand-held objects that speak to ideas of expanse and magnitude. Conceived as ‘cosmic eggs’, the glass sphere has become a recurring motif in recent projects, where it reflects, flips, warps, and distorts its surrounding environment. The sphere or ‘crystal ball’ is culturally understood to be a tool for self-reflection, a way to grasp the indefinite and unclear, to glimpse our future and know our fate. Overlaying celestial phenomena and human narratives, Sammut investigates themes of otherness, power, and agency, using the metaphorical qualities of interplanetary movement to reconsider the role of the individual, and the sway of the collective.

Curated by Catherine Woolley

Works in this exhibition were developed during a residency at Canberra Glassworks in 2023, supported by an Arts Project grant from Creative Australia.

Tile Image: Lisa Sammut, ‘a circular logic’ (detail), 2023. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Brooke McEachen