Event details


Date and time

  • 20 September - 2 October 2022
    10am – 5pm

Event type

  • In-person


  • Parents and guardians
  • High school students
  • Studying at UWA
  • Career advisers and teachers
  • Community

Event Fee

  • Free and paid events

UWA Wallal Expedition Centenary
20 September - 2 October 2022

In September 2022, The University of Western Australia is celebrating the centenary of the Wallal eclipse expedition, a heroic effort involving astronomers, filmmakers, aviators, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and the Indigenous Nyungumarta people who welcomed the group to their land.

Instigated by UWA Professor Alexander Ross, the expedition proved Einstein’s theory of relativity, changed our understanding of space, time and gravity, and showcased Western Australia as a significant player in world science. This set the stage for Australian participation in recent discoveries of black holes and neutron stars crashing together and making the most powerful explosions that send gravitational waves echoing across the universe. 

The expedition is a story of science, sailing ships, surf and donkeys, and innovative ideas that changed how we think. Hosted in the Undercroft of UWA’s iconic Winthrop Hall, scientists, a renowned WA artist, and educators have created an exhibition that takes you on a journey that starts in Wallal and finishes with the astonishing discoveries of black holes all over the universe.

The two-week centenary celebrations feature a range of events and activities, including:

  • Science, art, history exhibition with something for everyone and all ages, including:
    • The story of the Wallal expedition in words, pictures and a ten-minute movie
    • Drawing in Space and the Germ Series, an impressive exhibition of science-inspired sculptures by renowned WA artist Mark Grey-Smith
    • First chance to see the Royal Australian Mint’s Wallal Centenary commemorative coin
    • Discover black holes and the new science of gravitational wave astronomy
    • Snap a black hole selfie
    • Educational exhibition on teaching Einsteinian physics in Schools
    • Launch of Uncovering Einstein’s New Universe, a book by David Blair, Ron Burman and Paul Davies, including signed copies available for sale. Intended as a resource for school teachers, Uncovering Einstein’s New Universe complements the exhibition and is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand how Einstein’s new universe was uncovered!
    • Interactive activities for students to discover gravity and Einstein’s universe suited for all ages
    • Take a tour of a black hole in virtual reality
  • Free educational talks and workshops customised for students in school years 3 – 12 (registration is essential - see below for more information)
  • Public lectures (see below for more information)

Free Art Exhibition

The two-week exhibition in UWA's Undercroft brings together science, history, education and art, including an impressive display of science-inspired sculptures by renowned WA artist Mark Grey-Smith.

DATE:  20 September – 2 October 2022

TIME:  10am – 5pm

VENUE:  Winthrop Hall Undercroft

The exhibition will be open the National Day of Mourning for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

About the Artist: Mark Grey-Smith

Born in 1950 in Darlington, Western Australia.

For five decades, Mark Grey-Smith has been making drawing-sand sculptures that embody his love of nature, science, mathematics, and the ways of knowing our world that is implicit in an understanding of the natural world. He has created a body of works that speak eloquently of the underlying geometry that informs us and teases us with hints of mysteries yet to be revealed.

From his early studies at Chelsea School of Art in the 1970s, working with such luminaries as Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Hall, he was inspired to create work that replicated the geometry of nature. 

On his return to Perth, he co-foundered PRAXIS. This artist-run space energised a younger generation of artists by challenging them to make art relevant to this place while intently aware of international concerns. It was an ambition at the core of his own practice, which he honed in Perth before departing for Canberra and further study at the Australian National University.

Later he taught at that institution for a decade before returning to Perth and eventually settling in Pemberton and then Busselton.

UWA Wallal Expedition Centenary Exhibition

Drawing in Space and the Germ Series

This exhibition represents some of my efforts to express in sculpture my explorations of nature in all its manifestations.

Structure, pattern and form are my primary interests.

The physical world from the nano to the cosmic - from algae to dark matter - is clearly interconnected.

At the quantum level possibility gets solidified into matter and energy. Matter starts with the geometric array of atoms which is transferred into the structure and growth of crystals. This leads through the emergence of life to the patterns of the simplest form of life, algae. This algal pattern can be seen in the clusters of the super galactic webs.

Science has given us all of these new insights into nature.

I have avidly followed the new visions of nature in my sculpture. Emeritus Professor David Blair and Professor Paul Davies have been important sources in my understanding of the developments in science.

I am honoured to be included in the celebration of Einsteinian physics, the Wallal expedition and the astounding developments over the decades in which UWA’s team of gravitational physicists has provided a constant source of inspiration. Over many decades, discussions on cosmology and physics with David Blair and collaborations in art-science projects have guided and influenced my art. This is a wonderful example of art-science collaboration. 

Professor Paul Davies, through his writing, has led the way for my understanding of how things interconnect in the physical world. With his deep understanding and lucid prose, he has been an important link, bringing meaning from all the edges of science to all of us. 

Drawing in Space is a range of sculptures from the last 3 years. These sculptures are drawings in space. They are three dimensional lines and planes playing with positive and negative space. This work is an outcome of a desire to work freely, fast and small. The sources range from the geometry of rocks to the flow of water and the shape of trees and coral. All this matter is in a dance with space.

The Covid 20 works are inspired - as the Organelle and Cuboid series - in nature, but they are meant as expressions of human emotion; the emotions that arose after learning about the outbreak of a new SARS virus in China in 2019. I became very worried, both for myself and for everybody. In response I started a new body of work: some that drew from my works and ideas from the 80s, like Gravity, a sculpture first exhibited beside the Winthrop Hall reflection pond a few metres from here, and now exhibited on the wall of the UWA physics building. These works are figurative in concept, extremely three dimensional and are very complex forms.

The Germ Series is an expression of how you can get something from nothing. The beginning is a work titled Black Whole 1999. This was a sculpture made for the Gravitate exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Gallery at UWA. Nine artists engaged in the consideration of gravity and the science and machinery of gravitational wave detection. This project was initiated by David Blair and underpinned the development of the Gravity Discovery Centre at Gingin. 

By fulfilling the formal potential of the structure, forms have emerged that refer to the beginnings of life.

I am suggesting the connection of crystalline growth and organic molecules to the creation of self-replicating organic structures that we call life.

Artist Biography

Mark Frances Grey-Smith

Mark Grey-Smith image

I grew up in an amazing environment of nature and culture. My parents, Guy and Helen artists and they built a house with two studios, a pottery and an extensive productive garden on top of the Darling Scarp in Darlington, overlooking Perth in Western Australia. They were of that pre-eminent amazing generation who survived the Second World War after growing up through the Depression.

With my sister Sue, I had a unique upbringing. Our world at home involved painting, screen printed textiles, printmaking, production ceramics, fruit trees, vegetable garden, goats, chickens and pigeons - all of which we ate, along with the stone ground whole meal bread that dad made.

We had weekend visitors from the city and Darlington became an Art Hub as such. We also went to the Anglican Church. We travelled extensively throughout Western Australia and the Eastern States, as well as Cambodia and Bali.

The landscapes of the North West of WA were an important source of inspiration for me with its dramatic illustration of form and structure.

The observation of nature in all possible ways is the core of culture and particularly art. 

The family trips to Bali and Cambodia, with all the temples and sculptures, along with looking at international art magazines and art books, developed my interest in sculpture.

My early exposure to Contemporary Sculpture was through Art International and Art Spectrum as well as the standard texts on the Modern period. Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, Kenneth Armitage, along with the Russian Constructivists, Cubo Futurists, Picasso, Hans Arp, Eduardo Paolozzi and later Eduardo Chilida, were important early influences. The public artwork of Howard Taylor, as the only contemporary abstract sculptor in WA, was also a significant influence.

I had a short interest in anthropology until I came across semiotics and post structuralism. I was taught welding by Bob Juniper and had some basic training at WAIT in Perth. I was subsequently accepted into the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1969. The most influential teachers were George Fullard, Olif Richmond and Nigel Hall. I had the fortune to have Eduardo Paolozzi as an external assessor. 

Conceptual, minimal, instillation, earth and performance art were in the early stages of emergence at this time, along with the strong tradition of British neo-figurative structural investigation. After some experimentation with the installation format I began my investigative approach to what I now terms as my condensed essentialist sculpture.

I developed an interest in perceptual geometry, along with a strong interest in the discoveries of science including physics, cosmology, archaeology, geology, biology, among others. 

These areas have had such a profound influence on cultural creative thinking in contemporary society. In particular the relationship of post Einstein physics and the challenging art of the 20th century.

I have always wanted to learn about nature and us as an outcome of nature. Of great importance to my work has been the opening up of our understanding and visualisation of form and structure at all the scales of nature.

In our time we now have many profound illustrations of the interconnectivity of pattern and structure from the atomic to the cosmic. 

Such things as dark energy, dark matter, black holes, Einsteinian gravity, and quantum mechanics play an important role in my thinking and work.

On returning to WA in 1973 I found a disturbing lack of interest and energy in the local art world. Along with others I founded the experimental art gallery Praxis Inc. The intention was to foster contact in WA with national and international art practices and provide a venue for adventurous local artists. It had many forms and was eventually morphed into the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art in the nineties.

As well as teaching at Curtin School of Art and other institutions, I exhibited in Perth and nationally such as at the Australian Sculpture Triennial at La Trobe in Victoria in 1981. In 1983, with my wife Helen and son Tim, we moved to the ACT to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma at the Canberra School of Art. Our second son, Leigh, was born 1986. I taught at the Canberra School Art from 1984 to 1997 in the Foundation and Sculpture departments. I exhibited in the ACT and NSW in many solo and group exhibitions.

I currently have 2 works as sculptures on display at the grounds of the ANU in the ACT. 

Returning to Western Australia in 1998, we moved to Fremantle and from there to the present I have continued my sculpture practice. I have exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe 5 times. A prominent work on public display is the sculpture Centrefold. This work overlooks the Indian Ocean at North Cottesloe, it’s very well known, liked and photographed. I have also had several one man exhibitions from early 2000's to the present.

I think the central role of sculpture is as an essential and powerful method of expressing our relationships with each other and nature.

Free Educational Talks and Workshops

As part of the centenary celebrations, UWA is offering a series of free STEM talks and workshops (roughly 30 minutes in duration) designed for primary and secondary school students on topics ranging from black holes to quantum computers. While you’re here, head to the various Wallal eclipse exhibitions in the Winthrop Hall Undercroft, catch a glimpse of our resident peacocks and bring your lunch to enjoy on UWA’s beautiful campus grounds.


Please note: Talks and workshops are customised for students in school years 3 – 12 and free to attend. Select your talk/workshop to match your students' year. Registration is essential via the links below. For any queries relating to school excursion bookings, please contact marketing@uwa.edu.au. Download your UWA campus map.



New book coming soon:

Uncovering Einstein's New Universe: From Wallal to Gravitational Wave Astronomy

This book tells the international story from an Australian perspective, from the Wallal Expedition, instigated by Alexander Ross of the University of Western Australia, to the Australia-wide team that participated in the discovery of gravitational waves and continues to lead national efforts in gravitational wave discovery.

Pre-order Uncovering Einstein's New Universe: From Wallal to Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Want to know more about other Wallal eclipse centenary celebrations?

Visit: Perth Observatory | Gravity Discovery Centre | Scitech

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