Every January, Sydney Festival enlivens and transforms Sydney with a bold cultural celebration based on the highest quality art and big ideas. Sydney Festival was originally conceived by the Sydney Committee, the NSW State Government and the City of Sydney with a view to attracting people into the city centre during the holiday month of January. The first Festival took place in 1977 and it has since grown to become one of Australia’s largest annual cultural celebrations.
Bold and colourful, Higher Ground by Irish artist Maser quickly became the photo-playground of the Festival and the visual world for the Village. This striped beacon let all Sydneysiders know that the Festival was on, and represented one of the largest temporary public artwork commissions Sydney Festival has ever undertaken.
With a nod to MC Escher’s perspective-skewing artwork, Maser’s Higher Ground reimagined a world of converging architecture and geometry on a grand scale. Rising up from the Hyde Park lawn and reaching over two storeys high the artwork’s physical and visual boundaries collide, an explosion of colours, shapes and stripes offered visitors plenty of reasons to explore space. Part art installation, part photo-playground, Higher Ground was a dream come true for those who always wished they could step inside a painting.
Higher Ground was commissioned by the Sydney Festival and under Maser’s creative leadership it took over seven months to design and construct the artwork. It was on display in Hyde Park from 8-25 January 2015. During this time over 35,000 people visited the artwork.
Known all over the globe for his vibrant murals and interactive sculptures, Maser first started painting graffiti art in Ireland in 1995 and very quickly gained a reputation as one of the most innovative artists working in the field. Alongside his paintings in the public realm, Maser also produces works on canvas, video and 3D installations.
Since 1995 he’s treated the world as his canvas leaving behind his artwork in Ireland, London, Austria, Germany, Copenhagen, Paris, Holland, Belgium, Prague, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United States and now Australia.
Higher Ground was the largest public artwork ever undertaken by Maser, and a significant engineering challenge for Sydney Festival. Maser was clear that he required paints with the highest quality pigments. To maintain Maser’s creative integrity and ensure uncompromising colour matching, Sydney Festival chose to collaborate with Resene.
The artwork had to be built offsite and so it was engineered as a demountable structure then loaded onto trucks and manoeuvred through narrow Sydney streets before being reassembled on site. The paint supply needed to be colour consistent to allow touch ups to be made to the artwork once reassembled on site without them being noticeable.
Resene Lumbersider low sheen waterborne paint was recommended as a durable finish with good coverage and a fast drying time. The artwork’s skin was marine ply, and Resene Lumbersider weathered well outdoors as well as allowed for daily cleaning of the artwork. Sydney Festival is also the first festival in Australia to be certified to the new international environmental sustainability standard (ISO 20121:2012 Event Sustainability Management Systems). With the environment and sustainability at the heart of the festival’s business practice, Resene Lumbersider’s Environmental Choice approved status was very important.
With 30,000+ people walking over this artwork the floor paint needed to resist dirt and oils but match the look and colour of the Resene Lumbersider. Resene Uracryl 403 was recommended. It repelled stains and was very easy to keep clean.
Maser’s artworks all over the world adopt a striking geometric pattern and use a bold palette of primary colours. This has become the signature of his artworks and the reason he is one of the most recognisable street artists in the world today. Colours for Maser’s work were created by matching a bold collection of PMS colours to his exacting requirements.
The quality and coverage of the paint cut down on the painting time and number of coats required; without this the artwork would not have been finished on schedule.
This project won the Resene Total Colour Installation – Experiential – Product section. The judges thought “Lively and exciting, this project sizzles like Sydney. The colour contrast is exceptional and draws attention. Without colour, this installation would be completely ordinary; with colour it’s completely memorable.
The striking geometric patterns and use of a bold palette of primary colours works extremely well and is a spectacular effort for what was a fortnight of festival. The colour scheme does complete justice to the largest public artwork ever undertaken by Maser. A flawless use of colour.”
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