Anthropic Universe


Billy Shannon

Acrylic on canvas

102 x 102cm
This painting features in Sleepers Awake, our current exhibition 



Billy Shannon‘s Anthropic Universe explores the contemporary physics concept that only a universe capable of developing observers can be observed. Most research points to the near impossibility of a universe supporting any life at all, as the balance required to develop is so narrow and delicate. The work in this series grew out of a painting from Billy’s Sleep series of an astrophysicist. The deeper Billy delved into the research for the painting, the more he found connections to his other work and a unique fascination for certain areas of contemporary physics research. Having developed the habit of listening to physics podcasts whilst he paints in the early morning, Billy Shannon’s Anthropic Universe is one of the paintings that has sprouted from that.

Like most of my work, this painting holds half-seen subtle images. A sleeping figure of dormant consciousness emerges from the centre, a city suggested at the edge of creation, civilisation teetering on the brink of the known and the unknowable. A ghostly cross alludes to the intersection of faith and science, the cosmic and the personal, and the multitude of beliefs that coalesce in our shared reality.

Billy is not looking at any one culture, all of life on Earth seeks to thrive. And Billy Shannon’s Anthropic Universe goes on to pose the question of if intelligent life co-created the universe, is it possibly born out of our dreams?

This painting features in Sleepers Awake, our current exhibition of Billy Shannon‘s ‘Sleep Series’, a series which has been a significant inspiration for most of the last decade of his work.

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