Robert Owen is fascinated by the language of light. This makes the many-faceted crystal his natural medium. “Different lights cast different shadows,” he muses, playing with the idea of crystal as something Babel-like, communicating in myriad ways as light dances across its surface.
Artists have long been attracted to places with a unique quality of light. Growing up in rural Australia, Owen’s powerful experience of light in the landscape was to inspire the young artist, and after graduating from Sydney’s National Art School in 1962, he traveled to the island of Hydra, Greece.
Living as part of Hydra’s famous community of artists—which included lyrical icon, Leonard Cohen, and Marianne Jensen, the ‘little darling’ of So Long, Marianne—during the Sixties had a crucial impact on his work. It was here that he witnessed the 1966 solar eclipse. “The earth’s atmosphere acted like a prism,” he says, describing how he was moved by its crystal-like qualities.
Robert Owen’s latest permanent installation in Melbourne, Australia, explores this concept of crystal as a dynamic material, dispersing light and inspiration. Silence, a major commission for Hamer Hall, the city’s premier, architecturally world-class concert hall that opened on July 26, consists of seven large-scale sculptures completely encrusted with 62,000 dazzling SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS. Each form has a unique geometry and is suspended at varying levels from the triple-height ceiling over the entrance hall. Light is refracted around the space from thousands of tiny crystals as the sculptures gently rotate. “The clarity and brilliance of Swarovski crystals provided us with a system of excessive presence,” he says, “a wonderful, immersive experience.”
The effect is as mesmerizing as any top-flight performance staged at the venue. Owen explains: “I wanted to amplify the concert experience for audiences and provide a link between the visual and the performing arts, adding to the theatricality of the foyer.” Its name, Silence, dramatizes this idea by exploring different aspects of the theme—the noisy and the noiseless, light and shade.
If you’re in Melbourne, make sure you trip the light fantastic with Robert Owen at Hamer Hall.