Rodrigo Arteaga, “Our Wonderful Universe”

Book cover.


Content of the book, completely black.


Content of the book, nebula.


Content of the book, the moon.


Content of the book, stars. With hand to show size.


Artist: Rodrigo Arteaga (Huechuraba, Santiago, Chile)

Title: Our Wonderful Universe (2013)

Medium/technique(s): Found astronomy book, intervened with black gouache paint

Number of pages: 208

Dimensions, open: 20 x 28 x 1.5 cm

Dimensions, closed: 20 x 13 x 3 cm


Artist Statement:

I am interested in proposing a dismantling of the functionality of things, transforming the explanatory role of medical illustrations, mechanic, cartography, etc. By giving them new meaning, or revealing a deeper one.

I make drawings, collages, sculptures, books and installations with direct reference to human anatomy and its projection into other organic and ordered systems, for example rivers and maps.

I tend to focus on crosses and intersections between disparate sciences or areas of thought, such as anatomy, botany, cartography and astronomy. And tensions between bipolar terms: science and art, micro and macrocosm, the individual and the universe, detail and structure, order and chaos, interior and exterior. Through a formal integration between drawing, collage, graphics and sculpture.

The work Our Wonderful Universe can be read as a literal interpretation of the content of the book itself, and in the same way a subjective interpretation of astronomy. The intervention delves in the themes involved in the study of space by covering almost every part of the book with black gouache, leaving only the illustrations and engravings of planets, nebulas, stars, constellations, etc. Therefore the illustrations become immersed into an absolute black that is itself a metaphor for the universe.

The opaque quality of the black gouache is significant as it is at the same time flat, leaving almost no sign of the brush strokes, but also deep and infinite.

The extension of this work is also relevant as the spectator passes through many completely black pages that slowly give way to planets, stars and nebula, as if one where to travel through the universe.

The intervention is in this case paradoxical as in the same way enhances the illustrations but also in another way blocks and disables the content and explanations that go along with them.

This very aspect of the work deepens in some of the key concerns in my work as an artist, that are: the relationship between knowledge, mystery and fascination; between order and chaos; between disparate sciences. The work asks whether if it’s possible to “know” in completely different ways.  I believe that we are most fascinated by things which we are not able to fully understand, and that they remain mysterious. And many times when we know the explanation of something we loose the sense of mystery, and sometimes interest. Mystery and fascination had driven the pursue of knowledge along history and it is important to keep a relationship with it, but which is sometimes diminished by the ways in which we normally learn and acquire knowledge. This book is an invitation to see and think the universe in it’s broadest sense.