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Gazing at sand…

Weird title for what is generally an astronomy- and space-related blog, I know, but bear with me…


There’s a fascinating exhibition at the Brewery Arts Centre here in Kendal at the moment. “Sandgazer” features magnified images of sand grains gathered from around the world, taken by artist and photographer Jenny Natusch. Stella and I went to have a look on Thursday, and I couldn’t wait to see it because I’ve been fascinated by this topic for as long as I can remember. And the exhibition didn’t disappoint. Some of the photos are absolutely beautiful – portraits of tiny etched fragments of glass, minute shells, miniscule shards of stone, all photographed through a high-powered microscope and their images blown up to allow every tiny detail to be seen. A lovely touch is the way that each of the sand grains photographed is actually mounted on the wall next to its photo, in a tiny display box, which really gives a sense of scale.


What really caught my eye was how one ridiculously tiny grain, when magnified, looked spookily like Mars as seen from orbit… the contrast in scale there was quite mind-spinning..!  It inspired me to make this image of my own…


If I had one criticism/frustration viewing the exhibition it was that there are no descriptions of what each object is – is this one a shell? is this one a piece of glass? I wondered as I wandered around – but I did also wonder if maybe that was the point, and maybe they’re on display purely as objects of beauty, not there to be classified or labelled?  Turns out I was right: Jenny kindly explained the reason for the lack of labels in a reply to me on Facebook…

To answer your question……you guessed right…..I am not interested in labels, there are so many scientists doing that already, and some how it takes away the magic of it all to know what something is! Likewise, instead of giving the magnification I would rather display the grain next to the image.

Fair enough! Probably just me being my usual over-inquisitive science self. The lack of labels doesn’t take anything away from the exhibition at all; it really is fascinating, and the images themselves are beautiful, and, I’ll be honest, far more to my taste than some of the exhibitions the Brewery hosts. I know, I know, art is a very personal thing, not everyone can (or should) like the same thing, and every artist sees the world in their own unique way, but personally I can’t appreciate anything too abstract or “out there”, and sometimes I wander around the exhibitions at the Brewery in a state of bemusement, disbelief and utter confusion, not “getting” at all how… that… is “art”. This gripped and inspired me though. Maybe it’s because I’m someone who appreciates the beauty of rocks anyway; seeing these teeny tiny objects seemed very real to me, much more real than a few wispy brush strokes on a canvas that are supposed to represent the angst of modern existence… or something… 🙂

Walking around the photos you’ll think you’re seeing alien monsters, huge chunks of rock, glittering shards of magical gems, even a huge glowing nebula seen by the Hubble telescope… but every image is a portrait of a speck of matter, some less than a millimetre across, picked up off a beach somewhere in the world, just like the countless millions you’ve walked on or kicked into the air or patted into castles while on your holidays in Blackpool, Benidorm or Bali.


“Sandgazer” is currently on display at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, and is free. Go see it while it’s there!

More information: “Sandgazer”

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