Veils, 2013

The artworks, Veil 1 and Veil 2  are a quadtych (four segment) and a triptych (three segment) set, respectively, of two-metre-square ceramic pigment-on-glass panels suspended by cables above the foyer of 360 Collins Street, Melbourne. The glass panels are backlit by LED light boxes. Each panel is made of twin sandwiched glass sheets carrying imagery on its outer surface. Because the opposing image surfaces are spaced nearly 2 cm apart, the front and back images appear to move against each other when viewed by passers by. Overall dimensions 200 cm x 600 cm x 2 cm and 200 cm x 800 cm x 2 cm, respectively. Collection of Dexus Property Services, Melbourne.

The Veils are a commissioned artwork. I responded to the site as a global business hub trading in commoditiesmade from raw materials extracted from the non-human world. The Veils are shadows of muslin fabric, an ancient, widely traded commodity; its fibres are mostly sourced from the cotton fields of south Asia, manufactured in the mills of China for shipping around the world to trading centres like Melbourne. My approach was to present the web of dependencies linking the global network of economic activity to the biosphere as so vast, complex and opaque it is largely hidden from our awareness. The metaphor of the ‘veil’ points to the links and breaks, revelations and invisibilities intrinsic to our putative mastery and predominantly tragic relationship with the non-human world.

The source materials were decade-old shadowgram film images I had made by laying bunched muslin fabric across sheets of gelatin silver film and exposing it to flash in my studio. The original films were digitized at high resolution and meticulously refined on-screen preparatory to their physical outputting. The artworks were made using a relatively new ceramic pigment-print-on glass technology available in Australia only in Perth. Fabrication was completed in August and the works were installed on site on September 7, 2013. The project was facilitated by art consultant Virginia Wilson and its production involved close collaboration with project managers Savills, civil engineers Arup and lighting designers Electrolight in Melbourne, glass fabricators Cooling Brothers in Perth and architects Bates Smart in Sydney.

In early 2017 the Veils artworks were taken down and placed in storage off site to accommodate further renovations of the foyer.