Long before the astronauts conquered space, artists have tried to depict the universe. HEAVENLY ENIGMAS presents works by a wide range of Danish artists from the end of the 18th century until today - from C.W. Eckersberg, J.C. Dahl, Harald Moltke, J.F. Willumsen, Oluf Høst, Olivia Holm-Møller, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Else Alfelt to Margrethe Sørensen, Inge Lise Westmann, Thorbjørn Lausten, Jakob Jensen, Mads Gamdrup, Anders Brinch and Lotte Tauber Lassen.
The exhibition illustrates how the firmament has been the subject of conjecture and conundrum, speculation and study. Side by side with the artworks we present scientific instruments, film clips, music and other documentary material from literature and science.
By way of a number of themes, the exhibition shows the visual artists' fascination with "out there":
I. 1780-1880: THE OBSERVATORY
The artists of Romanticism felt on the one hand a mixture of fascination and trepidation faced by the infinite expanse of the universe, and on the other hand a curiosity about the astronomical discoveries and scientific observations of the time. In the period 1780-1880 many artists were preoccupied with the Moon as a subject, a tendency that should be viewed not least in the light of the developments in astronomy, which for example documented the Moon with the aid of photography during the period.
II. 1880-1920: DEEP SPACE
With the increasingly accurate mapping of space, the artists dealt with life beyound the earthly and with the inner depths of existence. The period's conception of the firmament is typified by scientific precision combined with the ideas of spiritual and religious movements. This is particularly true of Symbolism around the year 1900, but it is a tendency that persists until the First World War, when distress and misery led many peoply into fantasies about another life out in space, beyond earthly tribulations. In this period the first science-fiction films appeared.
III. 1920-1970: THE DANCE OF THE STARS/THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
In the time after the First World War, the cosmic motifs appear in modern abstract art. Suns, moons and stars whirl around in depictions of cosmic landscapes where the historical and existential tensions of the time proliferate in images of warring planets in colourful, expressive works. The focus of the artists on a dynamic cosmic universe engages in a dialogue with Edwin Hubble's theories that the universe is constantly expanding and in motion. At the same time images of the Moon, the Sun and the stars form part of more poetic depictions of nature and the sky, where the lyrical dimension of nature is given a cosmic counterpart by the heavenly bodies of the firmament.
IV. 1970-2010: TO THE MOON AND BACK
The first moon landing in 1969 by no means marked the end of the visual artists' fascination with the heavens. In comtemporary art the methods of astronomy and science are on the one hand applied to a number of works that draw directly on the material made available by NASA, satellites, space telescopes etc., and on the other hand visual art comments with irony and humour on our continued fascination with the infinite universe. The labels by the works indicate in which theme the work is grouped.