We are truly moving into a new space age. Within 5 years, we can anticipate the launching of rockets from UK soil, with spaceports being built in Scotland and Torquay. NASA will be sending the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024, with plans to construct a permanent moonbase.
Escape Velocity is an art exhibition informed by these recent breakthroughs and the current dilemmas in space exploration. It confronts the viewer with bold and expressive paintings of rockets and spaceships, characterised by geometric optical illusions which resonate with the 1960s movement of ‘Op Art’. Through these artworks, the artist poses the question: Has the advent of new technology enabled a glorious space adventure—or rather, an impending exodus from the worsening environmental problems that we have inflicted on our planet Earth?
Helen Schell’s artworks depict humanity’s quest to leave Earth and explore the unknown regions of space, which has been made possible by human spaceflight and new technology. Produced under the umbrella project The Human Spaceship, she investigates interplanetary migration and concepts of alien societies, shedding light on the evolution of humanity in hostile, off-world environments. Her creative process focuses on manipulating visual perception in altered gravity. It experiments with her idea that ‘space is like a giant optical illusion, there is no “right way up”, or aerial perspective.’
Escape Velocity coincides with the reopening of The Moving Gallery in central Sunderland. The majority of the exhibited artworks were produced over the summer of 2021 during her participation in the Broadside Creatives Residency in Sunderland. They consist of both menacing and appealing rockets and spaceships, which have been part of an ongoing project started in 2018. Amongst the exhibits are a series of spaceship paintings inspired by the isolation and restrictions of the current pandemic, which have drawn similarities to the conditions of space living. These works include: ‘The Pin’, ‘The Spike’, ‘The Spine’ and ‘The Cutter’. The show also features ‘Big Red Rocket’, which catches the eye with its striking colours and monumental size.