The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye – Installation


Titled “The Naked Eye,” this body of work comprised a series of four large-format paintings which are, basically, star maps. Each painting is a diptych, measuring 6′ x 8′ when hung together. It was important to me to create an artwork that felt immersive, as though you were going to fall into the painting if you got too close. Once installed on the gallery walls, the canvases looked like slices of the night sky.

When I look through my telescope’s eyepiece the sky does not appear velvety black to me, but rather it vibrates as though it is alive. That meant that the background of my paintings needed to echo the shimmering depths of a night sky. When I paint I work in translucent layers of glazes, creating complex colour structures rather than a uniform expanse of paint. I used this technique for the Naked Eye series. After an underpainting of vivid hues, I added about a dozen layers of blue and purple glazes until I achieved just the right level of inky darkness without losing the colour’s liveliness. To represent the Milky Way I added dry Titanium White pigment to the painting medium, spreading stars as I worked across the canvas with my palette knife.

While the canvases dried I created giant print-outs of star maps using the planetarium software Starry Night and the graphic design software Illustrator. I then chalked up the backs of the star maps and transferred the positions of the stars and deep sky objects onto the (now dried) canvases. After I dotted in all the stars came the long process of painting tiny representations of the deep sky objects. Hidden on each canvas are nebulae, star clusters, and supernova remnants.

For the Naked Eye exhibition, I recreated the experience of a lazy star-gazing session on a warm summer night – in the midst of winter. Two teak lounge chairs and two folding chairs were set up in the middle of the gallery. Nearly all the spotlights were removed from the tracks, plunging the gallery into near-darkness. Attached to each chair were a flashlight and a star chart corresponding to the star chart of each painting. To complete the atmosphere I created a soundtrack featuring frogs and cicadas, chirping and buzzing together as they would on a typical night in August.

Bettina Forget - Naked Eye Installation
Bettina Forget - Treasure Hunt #4
Bettina Forget - The Naked Eye - Process
Bettina Forget - The Naked Eye - Process