Triangle 2, 2005
The Esplanade, National Performing Arts Centre

James Darling & Lesley Forwood, Triangle 2, 2005, 8 tonnes Mallee roots, 3.5 x 8.8 x 1.0 m, at The Esplanade, National Performing Arts Centre, Singapore

Undoubtedly one of the quarter’s most arresting, elegant, and visually stimulating works was Triangle 2, which gave the concourse space a powerful shot of pure unadulterated beauty. The poetry, lyricism and rhythm of the piece was generated by the tension arising from the contrast between its formally-pure exterior – espousing the three-dimensional triangle form and echoing the concourse’s cathedral-like interior architecture – and its substance and content, the conserved, cleaned and dried roots of the mallee gum tree, indigenous to the artists’ Australia.

Triangle 2, conceived specifically for the Concourse exhibition space in tandem with Esplanade curators, is one of a number of mallee gum roots installations designed and build by James Darling in the last decade, ranging from the primal Mallefowl nest series – floor-supported mound forms – to the more sophisticated undulating Wave Wall works that cover over 10m of floor space. Organic in both overall shape – there is little more formally basic than mound or a triangle – and comprising salvaged wood material, the installations with their re-usable components, seem to transcend the natural world of growth, death and decay, instead crossing over into a realm where time has stopped.

And yet Triangle 2, as with the artists’ many other mallee gum root installations, was very much alive, shifting visually according to where the viewer was stationed. Close-up, the latter was mesmerised by the intricacy of each root’s baroque and knotted form. Further away, the same viewer was seduced by the tight and harmonious lit of the roots’ composition, and finally from a distance, he was entranced by the absolute harmony and grace of the whole, despite its make-up of such aggressively different building blocks. A work of subtle yet solid aesthetic, Triangle 2also evolved visually according to the time of day; warm and glowing in the afternoon sun flooding through the building’s glass façade theatrical, architectural and grand under the beam of the Concourse’s night spot-lights. Highly technically accomplished, each root carefully assessed for its shape, density, colour and potential pairing with the next, Triangle 2 as in the case with all Forwood and Darling’s installations, required many days to erect. Yet the skill, effort and calculations essential to the piece’s conception and construction were deflected by near spiritual experience elicited by its soaring presence, technical virtuosity deliberately at the service of visual splendour. 

Lola Lenzi
Pictogram + Visual Arts, The Esplanade Visual Arts Program.
Singapore Festival Jan-Apr 2005