Visitors to Shrewsbury this past week have been amazed by the sight of our Market Hall lit up with ever-changing artworks, as part of the Shrewsbury DarwIN Festival. We asked light artist Andy McKeown what was involved.
Stunning projections on the side of The Market Hall have delighted passers-by in Shrewsbury this past week – including a giant sized image of Darwin’s head with the complete text of On the Origin of Species, tiny Darwin’s heads in ascending balloons, the Jubilee themed collage SEVENTY and a technicoloured display of hearts for Valentine’s Day.
The project took light artist Andy Mckeown 10 full days to create, from initial setup and mapping, with nine days of projection, including a test run before the launch of the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival on February 7. It was supported by Shrewsbury BID.
Andy said: ““Each of them has elements I really enjoy - I was very pleased with SEVENTY as it came together in two days and ran perfectly. The response has been brilliant both out on the street and on social media. It’s always good to stand and watch how people interact with the work.”
All of the installations use a suite of software Andy initially programmed in the early 2000s which he has been reworking off and on ever since.
“The ideas are very much influenced by the location and equipment setup,” he explained. “The Market Hall is complex as it’s a portrait surface using a pair of matched projectors mapped onto the building. The location on a busy road requires care so not to overly distract passing vehicles. It’s also in a space that people use on a daily basis.
“All of my pieces for the Market Hall can be taken in at a glance or brief look and don’t have a start, middle and end. The animations are entirely assembled in real time from a bank of images, colours and texts.”
The amazing light installations at Shrewsbury's Market Hall, by light artist Andy McKeown of Wild Strawberry
This current series included SEVENTY which showcased the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Il’s ascension to the throne, PopDarwin for the Shrewsbury’s DarwIN festival, a light-hearted birthday card for Darwin’s Birthday on February 12 and Valentine’s Day.
Andy said: “SEVENTY was simply created from stamps spanning the 70 years - the humble stamp providing a perfect collection of images and we had rediscovered my (late) father in law’s stamp collection.
“PopDarwin is based on and earlier series of code animations of The Tempest created for a festivals in Istanbul and Newcastle, Australia in 2007 and Macbeth shown at the 9th Seoul international film festival in 2008, revised and infused with pop art colour for a transient audience. Darwin’s Birthday was simply a fun and light birthday card and Day In Day Out fits into the space between Darwin’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day and provided an opportunity to test out a few ideas
Valentine’s Day revisits a projection on the Market Hall from six years ago with minor changes and more colour.”
Andy is an internationally renowned new media light and sound artist, animator and programmer. As well as more intimate urban and indoor installations, he produces huge outdoor lightworks and has a passion for creating street level, abstract stories that wrap the audience in light and sound. He's done two hundred shows and nearly 500 installations, since 2007, including four in the USA and one in Luxembourg.
He works from his Wild Strawberry Studios in Shrewsbury, constantly experimenting with anything that moves or makes a noise! You might have seen his awesome Splinters of Heaven at St Mary’s Church – projected shards of stained glass on the church walls – which will return in December.
Another of his current projects is a short animated film based around The Cinderloo uprising of 1821 for the ‘Cinderloo 1821 Remembered’ project https://cinderloo.com/ weaving an abstract atmospheric retelling of the day’s events. He’ll be incorporating artwork and information from the Cinderloo exhibition in Coalbrookdale to be screened in May at the Orbit in Wellington.
He’s also working on a real-time animated clock, a new cafe drawing tour with his mobile ‘light buggy’ and is developing ideas for a retrospective to mark 50 years since his first light installation.
“The big shows have sadly been postponed again so I have plenty of time to be in the studio and out collecting sounds,” Andy says. “Spring and summer are a quiet time for light installations so I’ll be working on more sound installations and R&D.”