Vostok 1

Vostok 1 in Moscow

Published by

Matthew Turner

Rockets, Ray guns and The Race for Space.
I first saw the Vostok rocket in 1995; I was living and studying Art in Moscow. I was told about the Cosmonaut museum and rocket by a friend. I set out on the Metro on a crisp cold Russian winter’s day. When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A real Russian rocket! There were all sorts of feelings in that moment.
Standing there excited, in awe, overwhelmed by power and scale and raw materials, I felt small.
There was a sense of anticipation; I am below, looking up in awe at this machinery, man-made creations, inexplicable technology and engineering. They are rockets, but how much energy must they need to get this thing off the ground!? Am I standing on the launch pad, is this a dangerous place? That makes me feel a little uneasy. These colours make it look old. Decommissioned apparatus from a bygone space programme, left to rust. It actually makes me feel calm it has a lot of still weight.
And yet space exploration represents the most positive aspects of humanity. Skill, intelligence, ingenuity, bravery, and teamwork. The greatest human achievements are only made possible by the collaboration of skilled, knowledgeable people working together towards a common goal. These paintings, for me, represent possibility and hope.
22 years later I found myself looking up at that rocket again and the feelings returned. I had to paint it. I had returned to Moscow and was struck by the sight of the rocket again.
I am a UK based artist and I have always had a passion for space travel, exploration, the outdoors and adventure. I studied for a Fine Art painting degree in the 1990s and had an opportunity to study at the Moscow institute of Architecture (The Marhi) at that time. The experience was very influential to me and my artwork and in particular the time I spent at the Moscow Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. I was struck by the technology, the art and the symbolism. I went on to explore my own use of symbolism and abstract forms in my painting. I am also influenced by cold war space race propaganda and Retro Sci-fi art.
Over the last 20 years I have taken every opportunity to travel and explore. I cycled across America, Iceland and Europe as well as mountain biked in the Andes and the Amazon. I have also ridden my motorcycle to the Arctic, all in the name of personal exploration, adventure and inspiration.
I have been working on themes of space exploration and optimism. As well as Moscow, I also made a visit to Kennedy Space Centre to research visual sources for art that I am working on at present and most of the work is based on drawings and photos taken from primary sources at Kennedy and in Russia. While at Kennedy, I was lucky enough to be present during the launch of a Space X Falcon, the experience of the raw power and energy inspired me and I try to convey that in my painting, the anticipation of a huge release of power, and an event waiting to happen.
In April 2022 I was honoured to be asked to exhibit my work at the Legends of Space live show in Lausanne in Switzerland. In association with NASA and Lockheed Martin. I took part as the resident artist, I was there as the “A” in STEAM. I was fortunate to meet Apollo Legends, Charlie Duke, Dave Scott and Gerry Griffin, along with Bertram Ulrich of the NASA art/ multi-media program.
I am currently co-curating an art exhibition at Leicester’s Space Park, which is closely associated with the James Webb space Telescope. Space: Science and Nature will take place during International space week. Along with organising and curating the exhibition I will deliver school workshops and activities throughout the week.
I have worked as a secondary and Post 16 Art teacher for 22 years and during that time have developed key parts of the curriculum such as space art projects, spacecraft design and perspective drawing techniques. I found that art was an excellent way for getting students interested and curious about space science, and great way that art, design and science could come together in education.
My intention as an artist is to work in the great tradition of Artist in the NASA Art Program and Soviet Space artist. To promote, educated and inspire people to the possibilities and achievements of space science from the past, present and into the future. I hope to continue to work with space science organisations on future projects to perhaps, re-establish links between art and science, to inspire and promote scientific exploration.

This artwork is copyright © Matthew Turner. All rights reserved.