The sculpture was created by artist Alan Phelan, as part of Void Offsites, with the flowers of the hyacinth made by people in Derry and beyond during lockdown 2020.
A bucket of supplies was provided for collection at the gallery with instructions on how to make a ‘bucket flower’. Over 60 were made and, after many pandemic related delays, the sculpture has now been assembled into a 4 metre high sculpture in Brooke Park.
Alan said: “It was a great project to work on and we got such a brilliant response from all our participants, they loved it! That gives the sculpture a community ownership. It was a really big commitment because it took a week for people to make as they waited for the papier-mâché to dry. It was a quite repetitive process too. It was lovely, for me, to be able to figure out how to do a community project during lockdown when you couldn’t be together to complete it.
“We made an instructional video and sent out the supplies and, in the end, the flowers all came back looking completely different from each other! That’s fantastic because it shows how people interpret things differently but it makes the flower more natural looking, even though it’s a supersized flower that’s four foot in the air! The gardener here in the park even said that it looks real because flowers are all different. There’s an augmented reality version of it as well, which will be available soon. You will be able to scan the QR code and plant the flower anywhere you want, walk around it and crawl inside it, make it bigger or smaller. The QR code will be available beside the sculpture in Brooke Park and on the Void website too.”
The RGB Hyacinth connects back to a 2020 exhibition at Void Gallery, ‘echo’s are always more muted’, during which Phelan explored RGB - red, green and blue colours. These three colours combine in various ways to make a colour spectrum - which is what happens on a LED television or phone screen. RGB colours are also the root of Phelan’s Joly screen photographs which were exhibited at Void in 2020.
The sculpture also draws on the rich symbolism of the hyacinth. There are several memory metaphors associated with the flower in Greek mythology, such as prophecy and the ability to control and manipulate memories. In the Victorian language of flowers the hyacinth represents jealousy, sport and play but the meaning changes according to different colours of the flower. Blue means sincerity, purple signifies forgiveness and white is for beauty. As a Spring flower, albeit now out of season, it imparts potency and rebirth yet in the Roman Catholic tradition, the flower represents prudence and constancy.
Maeve Butler, Head of Access and Engagement at Void Gallery, said: “Void gallery commissioned this project with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs. We got a fund to commission two artists, one from the north and one from the Republic and Alan was successful.
“We’re so lucky to have it here in Brooke Park and we worked really closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council to help identify a site. The Council were so supportive with everything. This is the perfect site and the horticulturist here in the park, who was helping us put mulch in it, was saying he loved it too. We worked with GB Engineering to install it and they were just unbelievable. I couldn’t say more good things about them. Nothing was a hassle for them.
“It’s a real joy to see the sculpture finally up and looking so wonderful.”
The sculpture will be displayed at Brooke Park from June 18 – August 14 and Void will host a celebration even in July. More information can be found on Void’s social media channels @derryvoid.