Jerome Dobinson and Amanda Kay collaborated with Matt Westlake last year to produce Wisp, a public art installation inside the Glenorchy Police Station for the Tasmanian Government Art Site Scheme.
Dobinson and Kay are joint Creative Directors at Hobart design studio The 3rd Door (T3D). The artists work with traditional methods like painting, drawing and textiles, as well as digital imaging and design.
T3D installed large, colourful panels in the reception area and foyer that spread throughout the windows of the police station.
Dobinson says that Wisp is T3D’s attempt to make viewers inside the building feel enlivened and enriched by their surroundings, rather than objectified by their experience in the confines of the police station. Each panel was carefully designed to creative a calming atmosphere, as well as a seamless visual experience, inside a building that hosts otherwise tumultuous situations
Since finishing Wisp, the T3D team has been commissioned to produce several more public art projects around Tasmania and interstate.
For Dobinson, public art has the potential to enhance the aesthetics of a place, as well as expose people to new ideas. Their ultimate goal, he says, is to create site-specific art in collaboration with communities that reflects the community’s culture and values in a meaningful and memorable way.
How important do you think it is to incorporate art into public spaces?
JD: I believe public art plays an increasingly important role in contemporary society because it enables people to take ownership of a space, by creating an emotional connection between the user and the environment. Whether or not those emotions are positive or negative is of little concern, because in my mind, it’s the emotional response that’s important in developing a relationship between the space and the user. Once this relationship is established, the user can then begin to take ownership of a given ‘space’, and transform it into a ‘place’ within their own heart and mind. This contributes to a deeper sense of belonging which is important for any individual operating within a community. This type of connection ultimately leads to self-expression in one form or another; whether it be through critique, inspiration or engagement. The artwork as an object prompts a dialogue – that in turn promotes creative thinking, open mindedness and communication among people who have no formal education or academic understanding of fine art.
With that in mind, I think public art has the potential to break down the barriers between the general public and the concept of what ‘art’ is. Public art gives people from all walks of life an opportunity to engage in the creative process outside of the pretentiousness associated with traditional white-walled galleries. After all, we are all creative beings at our core, and self-expression is what gives rise to a rich culture and a healthy community.
Do you think the value of art in public spaces is often overlooked? And if so, why?
JD: I think it has been largely overlooked in the past. However, I do see a growing trend toward integrating art, architecture and environmental design at the early stages of planning and development. In recent years, I have seen developers, architects, planners, councils and even cities increasingly focus on creating cohesive spaces – both commercial and public, that are designed to engage users.
As people’s values change, we change the environment we inhabit. I believe forward- thinking planners are starting to implement this in their practice, by placing more emphasis and value on public art as a tool to help build a happier and healthier community.
How do you think public art influences the often tense mood of somewhere like a police station?
JD: I believe it can be a very effective tool to calm the nerves and emotions of people who enter the space. In most instances, anyone entering a police station has either been in trouble with the law, or is a victim of some sort of unsocial activity or crime; either way, these people are all experiencing high levels of stress, and this creates a tense and uncomfortable environment.
When we worked on the new Glenorchy Police Station last year, we wanted the artwork to play an important role in creating a contemporary police station that addressed these kinds of issues. We decided to develop a series of artworks for various locations within the station, each playing a part in establishing a harmonious environment for both the general public, as well as the police officers and staff.
We designed an abstract graphic treatment for the building, using colour theory to affect the mood of the space, and the people within it. The idea behind using abstract imagery was to remove the ability for someone to intellectualise the artwork. In doing so, we reduced the potential for a person under high stress to react to a particular image that might trigger a violent or emotional response.
This kind of planning and atmospheric engineering could also be applied to other high stress locations such as court rooms, train stations, hospitals and medical clinics where people often experience stress and anxiety.
In my opinion, many public spaces in Australia are lacking when it comes to creative stimuli-but that indicates that we’re in a great position to embrace the power of this art form, and begin to include it in the planning process for development.
If you could transform one aspect of public space, what would you do?
JD: I’ve really struggled with this question, because there are so many public spaces and sites I see that I would love to work with. I feel Australia is on the cusp of truly understanding and embracing the power that public art has to offer society.
As far as transforming a particular space, I would love the opportunity to get involved in the development of creating gathering spaces and walkways throughout city centres. I feel these spaces can often look bland and uninspiring. I see a great deal of potential to create spaces that uplift the spirits of those people working long hours, under fluorescent lights in standardised office blocks.
Another space I would love to transform is the city loop or a multi-storey car park. We are currently working on two railway stations in Sydney and I have come to realise that these spaces can be highly stressful locations for many people. I heard an interesting statistic recently that 37 per cent of heart attacks occur in car parks- which came as a surprise to me. I think people could really benefit from being exposed to art that enables commuters to forget about the daily stresses of the workplace as they travel to and from work.
Article published: 25 September 2015