First conceived by local Uralla artists Carl Merten, Joan Relke, and the late Charlie Rudd with the assistance of the Uralla Arts Council, the Constellations of the South project is an intersection of art and astronomy designed to be enjoyed for generations.
The project was originally envisioned in the early 2000s, as Carl Merten and Charlie Rudd shared a drink at the local pub and discussed their shared passion for astronomy.
Mr Merten has described this project as a “unique and inspired blending of astronomy, sculpture, and history.”
“It’s not just art, it’s also educational because we’re looking at the structure of the cosmos and astronomy.”
“The stars have been floating around the sky for you know, a few billion years, and while they do change, they change very, very slowly.”
“These things are going to be around for centuries, and they reflect the community and society where they were made.”
“And this is what this particular installation is all about. It’s also celebrating the fact that Uralla has very clear night skies, and so these constellations are very clear in the heavens.”
Situated in The Glen, an area beside the north entrance to Uralla and visible from the New England Highway, the installation was designed to feature eight granite boulders from Yarrowyck with sculptures designed to capture the spirit of the southern circumpolar constellations.
These constellations are not visible from the Northern Hemisphere, as they circle the south celestial pole and never dip below the horizon.
The project will also incorporate a stainless-steel obelisk, with the constellation sculptures arranged around it in a parabolic arc, four on each side. The layout is designed to mimic how the constellations appear at the Summer Solstice.
The Glen, which will house the Constellations of the South project, is one of three beneficiaries of a two-million-dollar grant awarded to the Uralla Shire Council by the NSW Government as part of it’s Public Spaces Legacy Program, which was launched in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. A key component of the upgrades to the Glen under the grant is the completion of the remaining six sculptures.
To date, two of the envisioned eight sculptures have been erected: Carina, and Crux, representing the constellations of Carina and the Southern Cross respectively. These first two sculptures were installed in 2004 and made possible thanks to a grant from the Third City of the Arts and the help of generous volunteers.
Now, nearly twenty years later, the project is finally re-energised, with Mr Merten returning to advise and help complete it. Despite the setbacks, Mr Merten is positive about the progress.
“I’m extremely positive about the Constellations of the South getting off the ground again after languishing so long. It will be good to see it up.”
No end date has been set for the Constellations of the South project yet, however as much as possible is intended to be finished by the end of this year.
The Glen is accessible at the northern entrance to Uralla, where you can see the two sculptures already installed, as well as the planned sites for future installations.
You can learn more about the history behind the Constellations of the South here: https://sculptors.net.au/sculptors/Constellations%20of%20the%20South/index.htm