Conquest of Space: Science Fiction & Contemporary Art

Art Life , Exhibitions May 23, 2014 3 Comments

From Sharne Wolff

Prepare for the invasion! Conquest of Space is not just an exhibition of contemporary art – it’s the launch vehicle for a multifaceted project that aligns with a screening of cinematic science fiction (at the Art Gallery of NSW) and a soon-to-be-aired ABC Television documentary. Curated by Andrew Frost and featuring work from around thirty artists in a range of different media, the exhibition investigates the often-overlooked relationship between Australian art and science fiction. Operating within the context of three lines of inquiry – the sublime, the uncanny, and the exploration of time and space – a surprising range of works are unmasked for their links to sci fi themes. Commencing with John Glover’s Launceston on the River Tamar 1832, Frost’s journey takes us across shifting sands and distant mountains, through ocean storms and frozen seascapes. Alien-like souls appear in works from James Gleeson’s surreal Across the Threshold painted in 1958 to Laith McGregor’s extraordinary Drifter while Adam Norton’s appropriated Conquest of Space poster bookends the show.

QT_May 23_Conquest of Space

Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this exhibition is the potential for its far-reaching effect. Having unlocked the possibilities for looking at Australian art through a sci fi lens, it’s hard to avoid seeing references everywhere you look. Put simply, Frost says  – “In essence, contemporary art is science fiction.”

Artists included in the exhibition are: Giles Alexander, Rick Amor, Lionel Bawden, Nicholas Chevalier, Shoufay Derz, John A Douglas, Hayden Fowler, James Gleeson, Michaela Gleave, John Glover, Tristan Jalleh, Phil James, Biljana Jancic, Shalini Jardin, Megan Jenkinson, Madeleine Kelly, Robert Klippel, Sam Leach, Tony Lloyd, Laith McGregor, Callum Morton, Nova Milne, Adam Norton, Joel Rea, Sandra Selig, Kate Shaw, Sam Smith, Jeffrey Smart, Eugene Von Guerard.


Until July 5
Galleries UNSW, College of Fine Arts, Paddington
Pic: Giles Alexander, Our Father is a Red Giant, 2013. Oil and resin on linen, on aluminium, 213x239cms.

Sharne Wolff


  1. Big Lamington

    On until July 5? Get along as it is a great show. ‘The Conquest of Space’ as a title sells it short, I was expecting all sci-fi but it is really just an interesting collection of contemporary art with some older works put in the mix to throw you off the scent. Love Phil James’ works so good to see him get a good run here as well.

  2. Ian G

    To consider the words *science fiction* and *sci-fi* sufficiently interchangeable to require no clarification or explanation shows a terrible lack of scholarship. And to not mention *speculative* in this context is puzzling.

    I am watching the doco on ABC1 as I write this and assuming Andrew Frost narrated.


  3. A concern over the contraction of ‘science fiction’ to ‘sci-fi’ really only denotes a snobbish dislike of a populist label. Get over it – AF

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