One of my all time dreams as an artist was to create a piece that would tower over the viewer creating awe and wonder, to have a piece as tall as a house or even taller to completely overwhelm and transport the viewer, to create a monolithic work that interacted with light, harnessed natural processes and that would evoke the belief that it was alive. Art that would be the beating heart in architecture, design and not just an add on to it but a key component. Art that could shift consciousness.
This is the story of Odyssey.
The 6m tall backlit artwork.
Odyssey is a monolithic 2 storey tall backlit artwork that will be making history in Canberra, if not Australia. Commissioned for Forbes on Turner boutique apartment development by Exempla Group back in 2019, it heralded my ambition to activate spaces with physical architecture via large format backlit art pieces. The vision behind this was to create an art piece that not only conforms to the architecture it is set in but has the power to inform it.
Pictured above is the completed artwork internally illuminated. The piece is comprised of two final125kg sections on plexiglass panels, a custom 6.25m tall auliminium frame and 40m of LIFX Polychrome LED lighting.
When working at this scale every challenge proportionally grows, including the creation of the painting itself, the oversized frame design securing the two plexiglass panel and the incredible long loom of LED lighting inc power distribution that willl feed the entire system.
Birth of a giant
Pictured above is the artwork forming with its vast size influencing the rhythmic motions and turbulence patterns in its motif. Just the sheer size of this piece has heavily influenced the type of forms that were created in this work. I had to modify my pouring technique in order to get the desired movement and energy flow in this piece. The artwork was considered to be backlit so the technique had to be adjusted to suit this new dynamic.
Cutting and sizing
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Once the painting had dried completely, which takes weeks due to the sheer size, it was time to cut the piece to an exact size for the massive frame that has been custom built specially for it. Incredible challenges, even with the best tools available had to be overcome to see this project to its current state.
The first time the bottom 3m tall section of the artwork is illuminated. Incredible to see the piece coming alive with the lighting and revealing amazing figures and forms from underneath. The piece was originally imagined to have 2 faces during its operation, the daytime majesty and softness, and the nightime dynamic when the piece is seething with movement via its array of internal WIFI controlled LED lighting that reveals new layers of possibility and heightens the ethereal nature of this work.
Heavy machinery was utilised in the installation.
above, a 5 tonne spider crane was employed with a team of engineers to install this colossal piece. The most challenging part was to bring the panels in alignment and with mm precision into the frame. The overlap of the frame was less than 10mm either side so the original cut had to be perfectly square and the join had to be perfectly level and aligned, which is definitely a first in this industry.
Once the suction apparatus was attached (these are used in the glazing industry to install heavy glass panels into position), the next part was to slowly raise the second panel upto the top of the first panel. The challenge was to bring the top half of the artwork in alignment and angle it into the frame to install it correctly, without damaging any of the artwork panels or the frame itself. I myself have only seen this type of thing in the popular 'Grand Designs' series, and it was amazing to be seeing this type of process before my very own eyes. It shows that an installation of this magnitude had to be done with the best of the best in professionals, even they were in uncharted waters here as they never handled art before like this. What drove everyone on site was to create something that no one had done before. It was exhilirating and nerve-racking at the same time!
Aligning the join was the most difficult part of this process as the art panels had very little room to move around the frame and once lowered and set, that was it, they would stay that way, so the initial alignment was key to this installation. Remember the bottom panel has to support 125kg of material above it in a space as thin as 15mm, so this was quite a task to complete, and to complete safely. We thank the amazing team at Soho Framing who brought in their team to transcend this insane challenge and installed the two halves of the artwork in perfect connection and unity.
Switching on Odyssey
Quite incredible to finally see the piece lit up, just the sheer scale of the light interacting with the immensity of the art. When illuminated it revealed its oceanic qualities and transported us to the very deepest depths of the oceans or space. One engineer commented 'Its was like being right under the great barrier reef' which was encouraging indeed.
It shows the power that art can have and the gravity of this particular piece. What an extraordinary result, what we have created would be remembered for times to come as we continue to push the boundaries and frontiers of art and its meaning, its purpose. It is time to shift consciousness and transcend.