Thesis Info

Thesis Title
The Aesthetics of Gravity: How our relationship with gravity is revealed in art
Lisa Pettibone
2nd Author
3rd Author
MA Art and Science
Number of Pages
UAL: Central Saint Martins London
Thesis Supervisor
Roberta Ballestriero
Supervisor e-mail
r.ballestriero AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Nathan Cohen
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Fine Arts
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
gravity, aesthetics, invisible force, neuroscience of gravity, gravity and art, art and physics, art and science, human interaction with gravity, sculpture, art and physics, art and neuroscience, art theory, gravity in metaphor
Abstract: 200-500 words
This essay aims to study the ways in which artists, including myself, have embodied and expressed our broad relationship with gravity and to understand the influence of gravity on the development of art. To this end, I examine five specific artworks from artists across media, centuries and the globe. This analysis focuses on two aspects of the science underpinning a quantitative understanding of gravity – in physics and neuroscience – while simultaneously finding modes of artistic expression that indicate how man responds to this elusive force. Initially I provide a scientific context for gravity, highlighting how our perception of gravity has shifted from a concept of weight to a scientific definition of force as outlined by Newton. Then I give a brief overview of the current understanding of gravity including Einstein’s theories, followed by an explanation of how the human body senses gravity via the vestibular system. By analysing their work, I examine how each artist has expressed this force in distinctive ways that expose our relationship with gravity. The concepts and artworks include: spatial orientation in landscape painting (The Swing, painting, Jean-Honoré Fragonard); mass and associations with the body (Untitled, sculpture, Alexander Calder); emotional metaphors connected to gravity (The Great Wave, print, Hokusai); weightlessness and abstraction (Some Circles, painting, Kandinsky); and new perceptions of gravity (How the Earth Shakes When I Jump, photograph, Kiessling). Pertinent ideas in art theory related to composition and form that support the development of these works are brought to the fore. Consequently, the reader will build an understanding of how to read a range of artworks for the aesthetic implications of gravity. Throughout this discourse, I also consider the impact of these ideas on my practice by discussing a selection of my own artworks, including sculpture and installation, alongside the other artists’ work.