The Making of Sky Garden

I have recently completed a commission for five large mobiles, each 4.5m high x 9.5m wide for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. The Artist Brief called for a suspended artwork that was ‘organic’ and ‘whimsical’. When I read the brief for this project I felt like it had been written for me.

From the artist brief;
‘The design of the new hospital is based upon a theme of nature… The artwork will create a sense of wonder, peacefulness and reflection and also has the potential to be playful and whimsical.’

The elements on the mobiles are ‘angels’ and ‘leaves’. The ‘angels’ or as I think of them, “non denominational winged creatures” are based on silhouettes of children jumping and leaping, to which I have simply added wings.

I began with sketches then made a series of maquettes. The final mobiles are as close as I could come to a large interpretation of the original maquettes. The painted patterns on the elements are a copy of the patterns on the maquettes, which are swirls of gouache. I hired graffiti artists to paint the elements of the large sculptures. I took the maquettes apart and handed them one leaf at a time, and they painted each leaf as a copy of a specific leaf on the maquette.

The maquettes had a beautiful transparency and lightness, because I had painted on clear plastic. I made the elements from laser cut, powder coated, perforated aluminium. This material was subtle but visible, with an ephemeral quality that I had been striving for, especially when lit from below so that they appear to glow, and cast enormous organic shadows on the ceiling above. The structure is made from stainless steel pipes with stainless steel fittings.

Installing the mobiles in the hospital was very exciting. We used a cougar lift and a crane for some mobiles to lift them around obstacles, while others could be winched straight up to the system of cables above.

This commission was secured and managed by ArtsCape, and made with the dedicated, patient assistance of Matt Crawford of Crawford of Crawford’s Castings, as well as my Dad, Graham Oakley, who generously helped with fittings and pipes at the end of the project. Some of the fittings were designed by Dom Van Der Merwe, and made in China, as nothing I could find here was big and beautiful enough.

Balancing the first mobile 10 by Jade Oakley artwork image

art materials: 

  • perforated aluminium
  • spray paint
  • stainless steel pipes and fittings

art discipline: 

  • mobile

commissions: 

  • The Making of Sky Garden

Photograph by: 

Anthony Pearse

Date: 

2011

Dimensions: 

5 mobiles each 4 x 9.5m

Location: 

Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, VIC