Rachel Bache is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Vivid Sydney: Struck by lighting

The Vivid Sydney festival opens the city's doors to New Zealand artists.
Sweep by Julia and Alexandra Heaney.
Sweep by Julia and Alexandra Heaney.

Kiwi artists are flocking to Australia this weekend for the opening of Vivid Sydney, where their work will be on show alongside artists from around the world.

Vivid Sydney is an art and ideas experience that takes over the city for 23 days, showcasing 80 light-inspired art installations as well as music events and idea conferences. It is the world's largest annual festival of this kind and this year, eight New Zealand artists are to make their mark.

"It is a great acknowledgement to be selected in Vivid," says Auckland-based artist, Angus Muir. "To be on the stage with world-leading lighting designers is always a privilege."

Muir, with Hamish Steptoe and Jarrod Barrow of Angus Muir Design Studio will show four installations in some of the city's most popular precincts: Mountain of Light at Martins Place, Extrude and Osmose at Circular Quay and Spectrum at The Rocks.

"For me it is about getting the name out there," the 27-year-old says. "It is also a great opportunity to try some new things - to push the boundaries a little bit with art and digital sculpture."

Mountain of Light by Angus Muir.
Mountain of Light by Angus Muir.


Spectrum will be Barrow's first exhibited light work.

"This is a massive step forward for me and something that has been many years in the build-up," he says. "I am incredibly excited for when the festival opens and the work is completed and ready for the public."

Being on the world stage at Vivid means an artist's work has the opportunity to be seen by many, but it also comes with a lot of challenges.

"The sheer amount of people who interact with your work for three weeks... the challenge is making it robust enough but not compromising the design too much," Steptoe explains.

Twin sisters Alexandra and Julia Heaney are making their return to the festival with their new installation, Sweep.

"For us, having the opportunity to be part of Vivid really has opened our eyes to the world of large-scale lighting festivals. Lots of event organisers from across the globe scout out artists at Vivid to participate in festivals further abroad," says Heaney.

Unfurlii, showing at Walsh Bay, was made by Ewen Wright and Lebanese-Kiwi architect Rana Abboud.

"Both of us feel growing up and studying in New Zealand, with its incredible outdoor landscape and lifestyle, has strongly influenced our design references," says Wright. "We take a lot of inspiration from natural, plant-like forms for our installations, with this year's installation being the third 'plant-based' creation in a theme that started a few Vivid Sydney festivals ago.

"We enjoy seeing peoples' reactions to our work first-hand and have been known to lurk in the background, taking especial glee when people figure out how our installations work. Vivid allows us to be creative in a different way to our professional jobs and, with a bit of luck, also allows us to find homes for our installations when the festival ends."

In the Frame by Mark Hammer.
In the Frame by Mark Hammer.


Lighting designer Mark Hammer will show his work, In the Frame, at Circular Quay.

"I've always been drawn to creative pursuits. Lighting is a medium that can change or create a space," says Hammer. "A festival like this that is mainly about the art of lighting is very important to the industry, showcases talent and new ideas. Vivid gives us a platform to try creative ideas."

All Kiwi artists involved in this year's festival agree it's something people shouldn't be afraid to try and that hopefully New Zealand might host similar light-art festivals.

"There is scope for similar events," says Heaney. "However something on the same scale as Vivid would probably need to wait a few years - and I would definitely like to be part of that."

Meanwhile, Wright says New Zealanders are creative, have a can-do attitude and a growing appreciation for good design.

"A similar festival format to Sydney's Vivid would celebrate those qualities and help bring them to a wider, international audience."

Barrow points out that there are a number of lighting festivals across New Zealand with the likes of D'Lights in Christchurch, Lux in Wellington and Luma in Queenstown.

"After the unfortunate end of Art in the Dark in Auckland, there is a gap in the market and a few potentials on the way," he says. "Keep your eyes out."

Info: For more information visit vividsydney.com

• The writer visited Sydney courtesy of Vivid Sydney and Destination New South Wales.

Exhibition

What: Vivid Sydney

Where and when: Sydney, various venues; May 27 to June 18.

- NZ Herald

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