TWT commissions Australian artist Mel O’Callaghan to create a major new public artwork in Sydney
Paris-based Australian artist Mel O’Callaghan welcomed the opportunity to engage with a large-scale public space, producing an artwork spanning more than 7 metres in height and 21 metres in length, when approached by TWT Property Group for a site-specific commission. O’Callaghan’s brief was to create a completely integrated artwork for TWT’s new residential and commercial development ‘The Collective’, located in St Leonards in Sydney.
Highly respected for her large-scale installations, incorporating painting, performance, and sculpture, O’Callaghan found this new commission allowed her the freedom to further explore the way people interact with art and its inhabited spaces. The brief proposed a fresh challenge for O’Callaghan, giving her the ability to engage with a large surface of glass, which had been a long-term goal of hers: “I’ve always wanted to make a work that was much larger than the smaller glass paintings that I have created previously. This commission offered an amazing opportunity to engage with an expansive surface of glass in one work,” says O’Callaghan.
Through the resulting work, titled Vertical Flow, O’Callaghan contemplates how penetrating shafts of light might affect people and alter their mood as they move through the space at different times of day and throughout the seasons of the year. Vertical Flow will be set into the glass façade of the Oxley Street entry of TWT Property Group’s stage one of the St Leonards development – The Collective, undulating with the existing contours of the building.
TWT Property Group has a strong belief in the value of public art and its ability to enrich the shared environment. The organisation has a history of engaging prominent artists for its developments in the past including Maria Fernanda Cardoso, XIA Hang and Aly Indermuhle. This latest commission furthers this history of engagement with contemporary Australian artists with O’Callaghan’s seemingly simple but profound artwork.
O’Callaghan cites a visit to Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel in France as an inspiration for the work, where she was moved by the way “the shafts of colour and light penetrate as you enter the space. They affected my experience of the actual space.”
“the shafts of colour and light penetrate as you enter the space. They affected my experience of the actual space”
The intention of the work is to welcome the community into the space and its surroundings, inviting people to interact with the merging colours that the artwork will incorporate, and which aims to represent the flow of our day to day lives.
“All of my paintings have a type of inherent movement,” explains O’Callaghan. “Upscaling that movement to such an extent is overwhelming but I think as soon as you move into the atrium space or inside, the shafts of light will be an incredible experience.”
“As the sun rises and sets there will be a massive change in how the work is experienced”
Depending on the time of day, the work will offer a new experience of colour for the viewer. The interaction between light and colour, and the continuously evolving way that light will penetrate and enrich the space is fundamental to this work.“One moment of difference will change how a person experiences the work, which will potentially have an effect on both the mind and body of the viewer,” says O’Callaghan.
Deliberately selected hues of reds, blues, gold and purple will be integrated into Vertical Flow and will transform and unfurl with the shifting light of each season. “As the sun rises and sets there will be a massive change in how the work is experienced,” adds O’Callaghan.
For O’Callaghan, it comes naturally to think on a scale that this project affords. With a background in architecture and design, the concept of thinking about the way a person moves through a space is habitual to her: “I find applying design thinking and critical thinking to my work really interesting. I’m always thinking of the body. Thinking through an idea, a concept, which always has a person at the end point.”
“All of my paintings have a type of inherent movement”
In previous works – including those that have been exhibited at major public institutions such as Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, the National Gallery of Victoria and Carriageworks – scale has been a key element for O’Callaghan. She continues to explore the notion that the audience can project themselves onto her work, thereby creating a special relationship between the art and the viewer. O’Callaghan hopes this will be the experience with Vertical Flow; that the spectator becomes a participant in the work, seeing themselves as part of the work as they experience and transition through it.
As the cornerstone of The Collective St Leonards, Vertical Flow is a forward-thinking collaborative project between the artist and TWT Property Group, to create an uplifting and engaging installation that acknowledges art as being central to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.
Main image: Render of the building, including the proposed commission by Mel O’Callaghan