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Shifting skies: a studio investigation into representations of the sky, atmosphere and weather

posted on 24.02.2017, 01:37 authored by Henriksen, Kari
This project investigates representations of the sky, atmosphere and weather in Western art in order to ascertain the effectiveness of the metaphorical use of atmosphere to convey notions of loss and transience. The exegesis examines the historical representation and meaning of the sky and atmospheric phenomena in Western visual art. This includes a critique of Romanticism and the philosophies of the Sublime. The research explores the conceptual underpinnings of the visual depiction of the sky and weather and the philosophical and socio-political discourse within which these works have been framed. It focuses on the differences between the visual apprehension of ‘the sky’ in the Romantic era and the twenty-first century. This research is informed conceptually and methodologically by phenomenology and focuses on contemporary artists whose practice incorporates phenomenological philosophies, collaboration with science and issues of identity. Contemporary German philosopher Gernot Böhme’s new aesthetics and the affective power of atmosphere have been influential in determining the outcomes of this research project. Böhme’s concept of atmosphere proposes a new way of overcoming dualism and intertwining environmental qualities and human states of being. It seeks to overturn the beauty versus the sublime dichotomy and allows for beauty, emotions and feelings to be incorporated back into aesthetics. Two locations were selected in which to conduct field-work for this project: one in the southern hemisphere in Australia, and the other in Scandinavia in the northern hemisphere. This provided a global perspective as well as an opportunity to examine the relationship between place and identity. I propose that the sky and atmospheric phenomena can act as a powerful metaphor for notions of change and loss. The exegetical research establishes that there is a direct relationship between the way in which the sky is depicted and a society’s cultural beliefs regarding its attitude to nature. The work for the creative component of this project has been derived directly from my embodied physical engagement with the environment and it is intended to express an inner sense of sadness and melancholy about what I am presently witnessing. My aim for this project is to communicate a sense of loss and an awareness of what we are losing and to encourage further discourse surrounding the looming existential crisis we are facing globally due to the effects of climate change.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Leslie Eastman

Additional supervisor 1

Luke Morgan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture