Orchardson’s research into the archives of the Royal Museums Greenwich uncovered a collection of scientific paraphernalia that once belonged to the astronomers William and John Herschel. This miscellany of materials and apparatus was used for experimentation or research, able to transport willing minds to other worlds through scientific discovery. A compendium of objects imbued with potential, to use the words of writer WG Sebald, like “beads on an abacus designed to calculate infinity”.
In Orchardson’s work these objects are again transformed, re-imagined through a series of composite sculptural forms and large scale cyanotypes – a process pioneered by John Herschel. The immersive environment they populate is defined by large-scale concrete walls, reminiscent of the remains of an enormous dismantled telescope or ancient observatory, that serve to frame the photographs and smaller sculptural forms that playfully animate the space.
Robert Orchardson said: “Greenwich is synonymous with a desire to look beyond an immediate place or time; somewhere from which to set out to sea or observe distant heavens. Aperture draws upon this rich heritage, exploring an impulse to comprehend that which is unknown.”
Jemima Burrill, NOW Gallery curator, said: “Robert was selected to create an exciting art installation from three artists for the second NOW Commission. He understood how the space worked and how to transform it using expressive material. Of particular interest for NOW Gallery was his research at Greenwich Observatory, grounding Aperture in the area’s history whilst inhabiting NOW Gallery in a unique way. From large scale wall drawings, to delicate cyanotypes and the suspended brass abstracts, his installation creates a contrasting fragility and concrete strength, colouring the way each visitor will experience the space.”