Impressive installations of light and color
Organically curved structures: Susanne Rottenbacher draws her inspiration for her light art from PLEXIGLAS® and its manifold properties.
Glowing in green, violet and yellow and held by thin wires, the light ribbons spiral upwards into the air to about six meters in height. Daylight entering through the skylights blends with the colorful light of the LEDs and creates a fascinating play of light, colors and shadows on the even gray floor. Susanne Rottenbacher called this room-filling light installation “Disassembly”.
It is her attempt at making the “fragmentation of light and color in the room” visible, as the artist explains. Covering an area of 100 square meters, “Disassembly” is one of her largest indoor installations and simultaneously one of the most complex structures she built using PLEXIGLAS® – in this case it was especially created for the BOX Freiraum gallery in Berlin. Rottenbacher places great importance on taking the observer and the surrounding environment into account when creating her art. The smooth surfaces and the transparency of the installation thus create a stark contrast to the brick walls of the former stables in which the gallery is located.
Transparency and vibrancy
While transparency is generally an important aspect of Rottenbacher’s work with acrylic glass, it is not the only reason why she has been working with this material almost exclusively for several years. “I am also interested in the ‘mechanical’ depth of the material and its vibrancy, especially in terms of transparency, reflections, superimpositions, refractions, and color layers.” The “Disassembly” installation is largely made from PLEXIGLAS®, one of Rottenbacher’s preferred raw materials along with programmable LED light strips. She combined these materials to create a delicate art work, which has been described by an art critic as bearing resemblance to “long-term exposure photographs that capture traces of movement.”
Play of light and reflections
The lighting effect of the “Disassembly” installation varies depending on the time of day. During daytime, light is reflected and passes through the colorful, transparent PLEXIGLAS® arcs, while the LED light illuminating the artwork dominates the room in the evenings.
© Claus Rottenbacher
PLEXIGLAS® and the transparent structure allow colorful light to permeate the room and making ambient light an essential part of the work of art.
Art meets plastics expertise
The sensation of delicate lightness is the result of a sophisticated and highly elaborate manufacturing process. The construction and impressive dimensions of “Disassembly” alone entail high technical material requirements in terms of break resistance and form stability. According to Michael Fritz, head of the Berlin branch of PLEXIGLAS® sales partner ThyssenKrupp Plastics, requirements included that the material could be “easily shaped, polished and printed on” but also had “excellent UV resistance.” This meant that PLEXIGLAS® was the obvious choice, explains Frank Fräntzel. Headquartered in Rangsdorf near Berlin, his company Fräntzel Kunststoffe GmbH has been collaborating with Susanne Rottenbacher for over five years. Together the partners have implemented over a dozen projects for private individuals, museums and companies from Berlin to Baden-Württemberg and even in places like Nice, Osaka and Mumbai.
“Colorless PLEXIGLAS® GS makes up about 85% of the materials used in the ‘Disassembly’ installation,” explains Fräntzel. Color was later added in a digital printing process, and the sheets were then sawed, milled and some cases thermally molded. The multi-component adhesive ACRIFIX® 2R 0190 was the product of choice for joining various PLEXIGLAS® elements, as it acts almost like “liquid PLEXIGLAS® and allows for invisible joints that are free from bubbles,” as Fräntzel explains. Cold-formable polycarbonate was used for the cable ducts and the tubes containing the LED light strips. These ducts and tubes were then screwed together with the PLEXIGLAS® elements. “The outer layer needed to be perfect – as if made from one piece,” emphasizes Fräntzel. Evonik and its brand acrylic glass are definitely “still at the fore” when it comes to surface quality and polishability, he adds.
Like a rotating wheel that sets sparks flying
The “Spin!” light sculpture from 2017 adorns a building complex in Mumbai. At night, the two-and-a-half-meter installation truly unleashes its hypnotic effects in the garden of the luxurious office building and shopping center.
© Claus Rottenbacher
Dynamics and energy
But “Spin!” catches the eye even during daytime, fitting well with the exclusive environment of the dynamic business metropolis of Mumbai.
© Claus Rottenbacher
Rottenbacher creates works of art for both indoor and outdoor spaces. The material requirements in outdoor installations are entirely different, since factors such as condensation, corrosion, hale and weight caused by large amounts of snow and water are of major importance here. This means materials used in outdoor installations must have “a greater thickness and more robust structure than materials for indoor installations. However, these material differences should not be visible on the outside,” explains the artist. Looking like a rotating wheel that sets sparks flying, the “Spin!” light sculpture adorning a new building complex in Mumbai is a prime example of this. Its outer layer consists of 10-millimeter-thick PLEXIGLAS® to make the structure resistant to monsoon rains and strong winds. All the same, the transparency of the material prevents the sculpture from appearing too massive. “PLEXIGLAS® also remains free from cracks and discoloration for many years. What is more, the material is resistant to a broad range of temperatures and features inherent UV protection,” says Rottenbacher, Thanks to these outstanding material properties, customers and art enthusiasts can enjoy Rottenbacher’s work for many years and decades to come.