‘To the Heavens’: an Exhibition Exploring the Earth and the Ether at Greenham Common

greenham common control tower, art exhibition, exhibit, to the heavens, jane Oldfield

Greenham Common Control Tower is looking up this spring, with a wonderful new exhibition by local artist Jane Oldfield. Her ‘To the Heavens’ exhibition features a collection of paintings and memorabilia, which inspires viewers to consider what is happing in our skies, as well as global warming.

Janes had numerous air-bound inspirations for her collection. She began learning to fly a glider, which inspired her to look at how other creatures explore the skies, from herons to Dartford Warblers, from ladybirds to bees, and even the somewhat unsteady summer flight of the stag beetle.

Another inspiration for this exhibition was Jane’s uncle, Charles Harris St John, who left her his flying logbook recording his photo-reconnaissance missions over occupied northern Europe in WW2. The Spitfires he flew alone were armed with cameras rather than guns which reduced the aircraft’s ability to fly high for long distances or fly low and fast.

As well as handling the aircraft, such pilots had to manually operate their cameras while navigating with maps on their knees.  The exhibition includes the citations for St John’s medals, including his award of the DSO in 1944 when he was Commander of No 4 Squadron at just 25 years of age.

Glider pilots learn the importance of watching and feeling the sky in order to find thermals of warm air.  Closely observing the horizon reveals how much pollution is in the air while changes in air pressure reveal how the weather is changing.  The sky is constantly changing, and Jane’s paintings and photographs seek to capture its continuously moving shapes and colours.

Most of the Earth’s atmosphere is within just 16km of the surface, less than the distance from Newbury to Basingstoke!  Recognising just how thin the blue line of the atmosphere around our Earth is helps us realise how just small changes in the atmosphere can bring about significant changes to our climate.

Professor Ed Hawkins of the Dept. of Meteorology at the University of Reading has demonstrated how average temperatures in Berkshire have increased since we started to use fossil fuels for energy.

As a grandmother, the future of the Earth has become very personal for Jane.  If it all goes wrong, could we fly away? Jane has imagined and made displays of balancing mobiles of laser-cut silhouettes of people flying. Will we evolve to be like gliders or angels? Either way, where would we go? Neither the moon nor Mars seem particularly inviting…

By considering the beauty and wonder of the air around us, Jane’s exhibition provides insights into how we use it, what we share the heavens with and how vulnerable we are.

Visit Greenham Control Tower from now until the 25 June to see the ‘To the Heavens’ exhibit. Click here for more information and opening times.

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