Michael Condron worked with residents of Great Western Park and with the recently formed WI to explore ideas for his sculptures. Participants made intricate cut-out designs, adding coloured cellophane to create beautiful light effects.
Michael Condron carried out a series of workshops with students at the new UTC near to Great Western Park. These sessions created an opportunity to explore sculptural ideas and gain an understanding of Michael’s process.
The students made maquettes out of card and experimented with light projections. Michael used a smoke machine to create a hazey atmosphere, which gave the projections intriguing 3D effects. The light seemed almost tangible.
Michael Condron and I joined Dave from ‘Sports for Streets’, and a group of young people at Great Western Park early on a November evening. As part of the idea development for his sculptures Michael wanted to do experimental workshops using light. At this session we created kaleidoscopic projectors using coloured cellophane and mirror card and then used torches and lenses to create projections. It was a fabulous evening. Dave and the children were great. Full of wonderful ideas and enthusiasm, despite the cold! ‘Sports for Streets’ is a very special initiative – a bit like a mobile youth centre – creating opportunities for kids to be active, have fun and stay safe close to home.
In November I joined Michael Condron for a visit to Diamond Light, the UK’s synchrotron which is based at Harwell. This is a very powerful machine which works like a giant microscope, speeding up electrons to near light speed to give out a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. This incredibly powerful light is used by scientists to study all sorts of subjects, from medicines and disease to materials and cutting-edge technology.
We visited on a day when the synchrotron was switched off, so were able to walk right into the chambers where experiments take place.
Once again we were faced with mind-blowing technology on a huge scale. When accelerated the electrons are moving so fast that they could travel around the world 7.5 times in a second. We are discovering that as well as being the hottest place on earth (at JET in Culham), this area is also home to the brightest light and the highest speed!
Didcot as a centre of scientific research is one of the main areas of focus for Great Western Park’s public art strategy, so in the coming months Michael Condron and I will be visiting some of the institutions in the area who are working at the cutting edge of new scientific discovery. Last week we visited Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and had a tour around ‘JET’ or Joint European Torus where scientists are researching a new method of creating energy which doesn’t create carbon emissions, is safe and creates minimal waste. You can find out more detail about this on the CCFE website.
Scientists have been researching into fusion energy for a long time. The centre at Culham was established in the mid-1960s, but the big breakthrough came in the 1980’s when JET was built and large-scale experiments began.
JET has been adapted and modified over the years, with research into materials and robotics leading to new developments in this incredible machine and the way it is used.
When the torus was built a surplus unit was manufactured which can be viewed by visitors. This is the closest that we could get to seeing inside JET.
When we visited I had been expecting to be shown to a shiny new building, typical of many of the science facilities in the area. It was a surprise to find some really beautiful post-war architecture which underlined how established this research facility is and the commitment to fusion energy over a long period of time.
Another drawing from my maquette. As the drawing developed I used blocks of colour to try and make the confusion of lines and shapes more readable. I find it interesting to see the image breaking down into quite a confusing, incoherent mass of lines, and then something new and fresh coming out of this. It’s beginning to go in a ‘constructivist’ direction…
Drawing from the maquette I’ve been working on. I like the relationship of shadow to maquette and the echo created by the colour. It would be interesting to create two inter-related structures in different colours.
Here are a few drawings from a maquette which I was working on before starting this project. They seem to fit here. I am interested in the way that drawing seems to open possibilities for new sculptures, and can see possibilities for using these as starting points for maquettes.