Science and art – a virtuous circle

The SKAO’s potential to fundamentally alter our understanding of the Universe has already inspired artists all over the world.
First People Artists' collaborative art quilt, created by Bethesda Arts Centre, South Africa, is part of SKAO's Shared Sky exhibition
First People Artists' collaborative art quilt, created by Bethesda Arts Centre, South Africa, is part of SKAO's travelling Shared Sky exhibition

As a vast, international collaboration the SKAO allows us to consider how diverse cultures are unified by their shared aim of trying to better understand our place in the cosmos.

The Observatory’s art-astronomy exhibition Shared Sky embodies this approach; celebrating humanity’s ancient cultural wisdom via the art of Indigenous Australian and South African artists living near to the SKA telescope sites.

Touring the world since 2014, it has been viewed by more than 50,000 people in seven countries.

Shared Sky reflects the richness of the artists’ ancestors' understanding of the world, developed across countless generations observing the movements of the night sky.

It explores how this sophisticated understanding of celestial mechanics resonates in the work of living artists that are sharing their insights with scientists working to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Shared Sky has been used as a science diplomacy and education tool, engaging with high-level audiences and delivering awareness about the SKA among decision-makers and funders at locations including:

  • European Commission Headquarters, Brussels
  • John Curtin Gallery, Perth
  • Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town

It is also invaluable for outreach among the public, who have been able to learn new techniques such as aboriginal dot-painting and create collaborative artworks during workshops in locations including:

  • Manchester Central Library, UK
  • Genoa Science Festival, Italy
  • Leiden University’s Old Observatory, Netherlands.

As the SKAO’s discoveries become part of public consciousness, its increasing cultural impact across art, TV and film promises to strengthen a virtuous circle where creative industries in turn inspire scientists to search for further answers.

Shared Sky_ Yamaji Art
One of the Australian artworks in the exhibition: Ilgari Inyayimanha (Shared Sky), Yamaji Art Centre artists' collaborative painting, acrylic on canvas