London UK based projection artist Ross Ashton, returned to Gateshead’s Saltwell Park for the Enchanted Parks 2012 event, with a beautifully imaginative large format show “Glass House” celebrating the work of Victorian stained glass artist, William Wailes.
The six and a half minute piece was projected on to the front face of Saltwell Towers, Wailes’ magnificent former home in the grounds of the Park, and ran every evening for the duration of the after dark experience.
It was accompanied by a soundscape created by Karen Monid and the whole work was designed from the start as an integral visual and audio narrative.
A single PIGI 6Kw projector with a double rotating scroller was used to project the images, fitted with a 25cm lens and located 35 metres away producing a 20 metre wide picture.
Challenging environmental conditions included temperatures down to -5ºC and 15 cm of snow on the ground, making it a tough working environment, but also added to the magic and ephemeral nature of the installation once up and running – which looked stunning!
“Glass House” juxtaposed the chemical reactions involved in the process of making stained glass against those of the Great Fire of Gateshead, which ripped through the heart of the city in 1854. The fire, though destructive, was followed by the rebuilding and regeneration of the city.
Ashton and Monid’s collaborative works are renowned for fusing specific themes and local history relevant to individual buildings with fabulously accessible and entertaining results.
Ashton commissioned locally based photographer Shaun Thubron to visit all the churches in the area which still have intact Wailes stained glass windows, including St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle and others, which he used as original materials for his PIGI artwork.
The audio script was derived from a number of mid 19th century resources including accounts of the Great Fire and printed documents from the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, which enthusiastically embraced Wailes’ work.
Extracts were chosen by Monid and read by a local community group, the Friends of Saltwell Park. These were additionally composed as multi-layered sound textures.
She also used multiple glass sounds and tones - both musically and as effects – including a rendition of local folk song, ‘The Waters of Tyne’.
The sound system comprised two KV2 EX12 speakers with playback via an Alesis HD24 hard drive, and all the original work was created and played back in stereo.
Ashton comments, “I was very proud to be involved in Enchanted Parks again this year, and very pleased with the results. The idea of bringing local history alive and reaching out to people in live installation like this is very exciting and rewarding”.
Enchanted Parks is organised by the Newcastle & Gateshead Initiative (NGI) and Magnetic Events.
Ross Ashton is an internationally renowned large format projection and video artist, whose innovative work has appeared on some of the highest profile buildings and canvasses worldwide.