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Sto Render as Art

Contemporary artist Alison Turnbull won a competition to design one of the country's largest public artworks at Barratt London's Great West Quarter (GWQ) development. As the entire development made use of External Wall Insulation from Sto, it was natural for Alison to use Stolit acrylic render for the artwork, capitalising on the virtually limitless range of colours available.

The commission was for a piece to be embedded within the facade of the key building fronting the public piazza. The art work has been strategically positioned to complete the vista down the western boulevard and it enhances the architectural sense of place within the GWQ.

Alison Turnbull was chosen for her modern and contemporary design Colour Chart Remix TW8 OGL, 2013. For this project Alison worked in collaboration with Assael Architecture to develop the integrated artwork: We spoke to Alison about her design, her inspiration and, of course, colour.

Looking at your previous work there seems to be a lot of focus around colour. Where does your inspiration come from?

It's difficult to be precise about where things originate, but my surroundings, along with the history of art itself, have definitely fine-tuned my approach to colour.

I grew up in various countries and travelled around the world from a young age so my surroundings were constantly changing – different light, different climates and different cultures. Every country – or culture – uses colour in a distinct way and I've always found it interesting to explore those nuances.

Previously I have taken colour stimulus from botanical plant lists, from star charts, even from the taxonomy of butterflies in the Galapagos Islands. This always involves a complex process of conversion, so it was refreshing to work with Sto's refined and ready made colour system.

How did you come up with the GWQ design?

Initially, I cut the StoColor System chart into strips and experimented in my studio with reordering and overlaying the rectangular colours onto vertical grids. We tend to animate grids, seeing bricks, windows and buildings in them, rather in the way that we might look for images in the shapes of clouds. The notion of a vast, building sized colour chart using all eight hundred colours appealed to me.

I gave a lot of thought to how best to represent the extensive range of colours the StoColor System provided. I also wanted to take key viewpoints into consideration.

The embedded work had to be simultaneously bold enough to be apprehended at a glance by motorists coming into London on the M4 and subtle enough to provide ambient imagery for residents and daily users. The top of the design is very ordered; it then fragments as the colours cascade towards the ground and more and more white is introduced – making the background appear increasingly active.

The placing of the coloured rectangles in relation to each other and, indeed, the spacing between them is taken directly from the dimensions on the StoColor System chart. Although initially the selection of coloured and white areas may appear quite random, the methodical process of always referring back to the chart ensures that the work has its own internal logic.

How is it different from what you've done previously?

I have produced architectural pieces before but nothing on this scale. In terms of colour it feels quite new to me.

Digital colour, if there is such a thing, might be associated with charts, diagrams and numbers whereas analogue colour, traditionally expressed in the painter's colour wheel, is perhaps more organic and naturalistic. I guess the Sto project would fall into the digital category. The colour chart itself was my starting point whereas when I work in the studio with oil paint on canvas, it is coloured pigment that is my raw material.

I worked alongside the architects to ensure my idea would translate well onto a building facade. Applying the colours to the building in the middle of winter, however, was a much more physically demanding task! I was fortunate to have very dedicated and able craftsmen carrying out the work.

I think we all felt that both the StoColor System and the coloured render were used in a new and challenging way.

The Colour Chart Remix TW8 OGL, 2013 represents the StoColor range brilliantly. How did the range of colours influence your design?

Thank you! I took my inspiration directly from the colour chart and it was great to work with a readymade colour system rather than having to invent everything myself. With over eight hundred colours as a starting point the opportunities were endless. I wanted to convey the infinite potential of colour in a design that works in harmony with the GWQ.

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