On the façade of the new Ritz-Carlton, Perth, Tasmanian-based artist Catherine Woo was invited to engage the grand proportions of Western Australia in a transformative art installation from the nearby Swan River to the falling water of the famous Kimberley Gorges. Cascade (2019) looks outwards to the River and the new prescient in Elizabeth Quay, capturing the glistening water and immersing the hotel in its environment.
At over 20 metres high, the shimmering material replicates the movement of water, fabricated in recycled cast aluminium over the façade of the new hotel. The artist harnesses light with the reflective surface, creating a multitude of artworks at different times of the day, showcasing the transient texture of place onto physical material.
The process for the grand, sculptural work began with Woo’s original artwork first scanned into a 3D model. They developed the work using Virtual Reality Technology — using modern technologies allowing the team to maximise the watery effect in the location of the artwork. The artist worked with UAP and Probuild to ensure the artwork flowed seamlessly from the building, juxtaposing and complementing the brass window frames, timber shutters, and natural stone tiles. With the scattered light, the hotel becomes alive, reflecting the busy Elizabeth Quay, and giving the building site-specific context.
Woo often draws on nature as a medium within her artworks, describing her practice as a collaboration and experimentation with natural forces, a way of ‘painting with nature’. The artist mirrors the duality of perspective, and Cascade appears at times as close-ups of rippling water channels or aerial shots of gushing rivers cutting through the landscape.
In previous works, Woo has explored the inter-relationship between humans and their environment by using delicate and intensely detailed, abstracted surfaces. The artist hopes to impart a physicality to her artworks that renders them as ‘bodies’, raising a sense of ambiguity that blur these boundaries. She likens this state to, “working with natural forces – vibration, wave motion, reticulation… a collaboration with nature.”
The philosophy of engaging humanness within nature is the founding concept of Woo’s practice; she aims to extend the metaphor of our bodies into the physical space of nature’s body. The artworks hope to stir a protectiveness over the earth, and its fragile state thanks to climate change. And coming out of an Australian summer full of fires and flooding, a closer relationship to nature is needed to protect our ecology.