© DMC Photography/Designer: Robert Foster (F!NK & Co)

Tusks of Light

A light installation in Canberra, Australia, impressively demonstrates the ability of PLEXIGLAS® Satinice perfectly.

Picture huge tusk-like structures pushing their way out of a polished cement floor! It is because his 37 illuminated objects look like tusks that Australian designer Robert Foster (1962 - 2016) coined them ossolites, in reference to the Latin word “os”, meaning bone. The term “oscillating” also comes into play in the name, given the appearance of movement produced by the illumination of Foster’s installation, “The Journey”, in changing colors. The illuminations change color either every hour or through the activation of motion sensors prompted by visitors walking through the installation.

In another world

The designer wanted to convey the sense that the viewer is moving through a forest of tall illuminated forms, creating the feeling that is somewhere between being in the presence of ancient spirits and the hint of strange creatures from the ­future. Foster, the chief designer and founder of F!nk & Co, a Canberra-based design outfit created the installation, which spans a surface of 300 square meters, in collaboration with Frost* Design (Sydney) and Coolon Lighting (Melbourne). It is arrestingly on display on the ground floor of the utility supplier ActewAGL’s
headquarters building in Canberra, Australia. Foster’s installation is clearly visible to passers-by—by day and by night—through floor-to-ceiling window panes facing the street. Moreover, it is open to the public during the day and at night whilst the restaurant is open.

Handmade

It took Robert Foster and his team twelve months to manufacture the ossolites — which range in height from 80 centimeters to three meters and with diameters of up to 1.2 meters. They first built models on a scale of 1:10, arranged them to stand in a particular relation to one another, then photographed them and made records of all the relevant dimensions, before starting work on creation of the actual hand-crafted sculptures. Foster manufactured the sculptures using a technique he devised himself which lets him thermoform these elegantly curved shapes from PLEXIGLAS® Satinice.

Ideal light diffusion

Each of the 37 sculptures is made of thermally reshaped six-millimeter PLEXIGLAS® Satinice, WH10, supplied by Evonik distributor Plastral Pty Ltd (Sydney). It is very durable and resistant to scratching, which was important to prevent vandalism and the wear and tear and thus longevity of the sculpture. At the same time PLEXIGLAS® Satinice has a very good ability to diffuse light. The material distributes light evenly across the entire surface of the “tusks”, thus enhancing the effect produced by the illuminated tapered forms. The internally fitted system of LED lights provided by Coolon Lighting remains invisible to the eye, with the forms themselves appearing to be the actual source of the light.

Light sequences that narrate stories

The illumination system for each of the sculptures is programmed to produce dramatic, interactive sequences of light and color. His programs of changing illumination sequences tell stories of weather phenomena such as storms or of urban scenes such as the shadows of people running past or a police car chase through city streets.