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Making Waves

Art Press Release

Waves of light roll through Teignmouth with "Making Waves" Public Art Installation - the biggest fibre optic projection in Europe

"Making Waves", a major town centre lighting artwork, is conceived and designed by artist Ray Smith following an invitation from the Teignmouth Town Council. The project took five years from the initial idea to the final installation.

Taking a clear, repeating wave-form image, Ray Smith comments on the overwhelming influence the sea has had on the town and its development. Ray Smith perceived the sea as being the cultural heart of the town. And the sea is the heart of the art project. Continuous waves drawn in light on an overhead web of catenary wires, which are invisible when the lights are illuminated at night and yet silvery and discreet when the lights are off during the day, roll through the town echoing the sea beyond. These drawings in light give an echo of the kinds of illumination often associated with seaside resorts and yet they have a subtlety and a poetry that makes them quite unique.

"Making Waves" is a contemporary work of art which is innovative in its use of new lighting technologies, but it also integrates sympathetically into the fabric of Teignmouth and enhances the character of this traditional and unspoiled seaside town.

The kinetic, repeating wave motif is reminiscent of the 'cut-out' moving sea in 17th century theatre stage set. Here, the wave form is a refined version of a lazy, fluent scribble. This simple form was reached through exploration and refinement including floodlighting buildings, drawing onto facades with ropelight using overhead laser lights and figurative fish images reflecting Ray Smith's existing work on the Teignmouth Triangles street refurbishment project.

"I wanted to find a new solution to the notion of 'seaside illumination," says Ray Smith. "But the creative solution had to arise out of what was both technically possible and also what could actually work at this particular site. When I was first working on the project, the fluency of the wave form was important. It became a question of how the materiality of the fibre optic cable would affect this. As it turned out, the fibre optic light has a carefully drawn quality which is entirely consistent with the subtle colour changes and the slender structure of the work".

The finished project has twenty two multi-coloured spans of waveforms running through the four main streets in Teignmouth's towncentre. In Den Road, the main street leading to the promenade with its sea-front bulb lighting in a wave form, there are four spans incorporating the new "Flo-lite" motion Non-neon lighting. The other three streets (Bank Street, Wellington Street and Station Road) each have a set of waves drawn with 16mm side-glow fibre optic cable strung overhead across the street with a fine web of catenary wires like a musical stage.

The fibre optic cables are lit from each side of the street by a wall-mounted projector. Each projector has a rotating four-colour wheel, so that each span has eight separate colours continuously pulsing through the fibre optic cables.

"Ray chose non-synchronous colour changes between each pair of projectors", says Teignbridge District Council's Principal Building Surveyor, Nick Grech-Cini. "There is spiraling helter skelter effect for a moment as the colour changes. It's joy in motion. The colours were chosen very specifically and are an elegant and simple use of photographic filters."

The choice of filters show the use of adjacent harmonies as the colours gently shift and modulate through the work. Rose Pink flows to Magenta to Fuschia Pink, to Special Steel Blue. Colours move through the spectrum along the length of each street. The far points have the cooler colours, blues to violets, and the spans move to warmer colours meeting at the crossroads with oranges and reds.

According to Ray Smith, "The colours are critical to the work. They are the poetry of the piece. It's not jazzy and in your face. The adjacent harmonies have slight risky surprises, like spring yellow next to the fire of amber, where more saturated or vibrant colours flare along the span. It's quite like a surfer sitting waiting for the break. There are a series of gentle waves and then a big one comes along. The project is not passive. There are surprises. Little surprises."

The slow pulse of colour through the waves echoes the movement of the sea beside the town. The wave images echo the waves of the sea, but also the wavelengths of light itself.


Photography: 35mm and medium format slides and digital imagery available, contact Diana Dicker 01626-770827

For more information: contact Ray Smith 01935-824818 This is a Teignmouth Town Council project, supported by Teignbridge District Council and the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England.