“There are experiments and exhibits inside buildings,” Artist and sculptor Silas Merlin says of his installation at LEA 14. “It’s a collection of the things I happen to be building this semester, so there’s no specific theme; but I do have LEA in mind whatever I do, so I think everything is in theme in that respect.”
It’s certainly an intriguing environment, bringing together Silas’ gift for 3D sculpture and his pastel artwork in a place where exploration is encouraged – indeed required, if one is to see everything. It is also a place which includes certain nods to others here and there, be they intentional or otherwise; with the intentional ones offered a little tongue-in-cheek and without rancour.
The landing point to the installation is located in a tall tower sitting just offshore to the rest of the build. This tower contains the first of Silas’ experiments: the use of a cubemap and a 360-degree image to create a reflective hemisphere on the stone floor (you’ll need to have you viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled via Preferences > Graphics in order to see the reflection, otherwise the hemisphere will simply appear to be a black object).
Getting to the rest of the installation is perhaps best done by flying from the landing point. A rugged landscape, with a ground pattern and plants which are in places mindful of Cica Ghost’s designs, this is a place littered with buildings and ruins, many of which look to have been extruded from living rock rther than constructed. Some rise like the towers of a castle, others seem to have echoes of Hindu or Aztec architecture, and others are far more free-form.
Many of these structures have elements inside or on them. These range from experiments with projectors and projected lights – so again, keep ALM enabled during your visit – to little vignettes of characters from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (as seen through the 1953 lens of Walt Disney Pictures) to places to sit down and relax, and so on.
The Peter Pan elements can be found in a little scene featuring the Darling family, and a charming little diorama featuring some of the principal characters – Pan himself, Hook, Tiger Lily, the crocodile, the alarm clock, etc. Larger versions of some of the characters can also be found dotted about the landscape, with Hook’s ship sitting in a small bay.
Two of the larger structures within the landscape are particularly engaging, albeit for different reasons. The first takes form of a temple with a somewhat Hindu styling to it. It has been raised in recognition of a certain – controversial, shall we say – artist who has not had the best of relationships with the LEA, being s known for her … disruptive … influence.
“She seems to target LEA artists,” Silas playfully said of the artist concerned, “So I thought it would be fun to have a temple with offerings to appease the angry goddess!”
The second building offers a selection of pastel drawings by Silas. However, these are very different to his usual studies. Predominantly black-and-white, they have something of a dark, haunting tone to them, with even the colour paintings hinting at spirits and the supernatural.
A part of the installation that may not be obvious to visitors sits at 3021 metres in the air. Here, on a platform sits a small ghost town of buildings – some of which reminded me of some of the structures in Silas’ Felsenmeer experience in Sansar. It sits among a number of platforms containing unfinished elements, and offer another point for exploration, even if you do need to map teleport your way up to it.
A curious but engaging mix of Silas’ work, LEA 14 will remain open to visitors through until the end of June.
- Silas Merlin at LEA14 (rated: Moderate)