Physicists have amassed a lot of information about the universe, considering that they have gathered it from Earth – a mere grain of sand in the scheme of things. Many theories about space/time are challenging. Indeed it is often the gap between an abstract concept about the nature of space/time and my everyday experience of it that is the motivating force behind my work. Unbounded space speculates about the shape of an expanding universe.
Einstein was the first to suggest that space might be finite yet unbounded. Steven Hawking and James Hartle propose that in the very first moments of the Big Bang space and time were merged. They claim that the origin of the universe becomes redundant when the Big Bang singularity is ‘smoothed out’. As Hawking states, ‘the boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary’. The universe just is. To help visualise an expanding universe physicists sometimes use the image of an inflating balloon. They imagine dots on the balloon representing galaxies and the space between the galaxies stretching as the balloon inflates.
Speculation about the shape of a universe that is finite, with no boundaries, curved by gravity and expanding, has produced a series of sculptures that have evolved along an eccentric path. The development of a sculpture is governed only partially by the concept, because the material relationships, the limitations, possibilities and formal properties combine to create the final piece, and in the case of Unbounded space the materials played a significant role. The best works transcend the original idea. While reflecting on how the universe might appear from outside is fraught with problems, there is an exhilarating freedom in this unknown territory. The work is idiosyncratic, derived not from mathematical modelling of space or the result of scientific analysis of observable data. In fact, the work has more in common with creation myths than real science.
I am aware of the folly of my enterprise. I console myself that many theories about the universe are yet to be proved and we may never be able to visualise the shape of space. Ultimately, we must accept the mystery.
 P Davies, The mind of God, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992, p.68.
Photography: David Paterson