The Confusion: An Interview with Zachary Eastwood-Bloom
The Woolf Institute has recently installed its first Public Art Installation: The Confusion by Zachary Eastwood-Bloom. The sculpture reflects, mirrors and distorts traditional images and motifs from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Here, Aishah Mehmood interviews the artist about his inspiration.
Tell me about yourself?
I am a sculptor and I studied at both Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London before setting up a studio a little under 10 years ago. I use a lot of digital making technologies such as 3D printing coupled with traditional materials and making, such as wood ceramics, bronze etc. I am fascinated in human progress and how we have developed over the centuries. So there is a lot of references to history, technology, tradition or the subversion of tradition and 21st century representations. Most of my work examines where were at now and where we have come from. Making art is my way of understanding the world or at least trying to.
How did the idea come together?
Initially I had a meeting with the architects of the new building and I immediately saw the potential in the rotunda space in the entrance. It was a space where from three floors of the building could look you could see into the same space so that was ideal... I suspected very early on that I would like to hang something there but at that stage I wasn't committed to any design, I had never made anything that had hung before so I was a little unsure. I began by researching symbols of each religion but in the back of my mind I was also aware of Islams rules on idolatry and the representation of human form so I also began to research Islamic geometry. I began by drawing some patterns out and when you do something active like that it can promote further ideas, a thinking through doing. I began to incorporate the Star of David into the designs and then I experimented with trying to 'pull' the geometry into three dimensions which looked like a crown of thorns. Things eventually then fall into place, I knew what geometry it was going to take, what materials it would be made of and how it would be hung and what height and how it would be seen from each floor.
Can you explain the meaning behind the piece?
As you walk into the building the sculpture hangs above head height in the entrance, it just looks like a jumbled collection of gold lines. I think this looks rather attractive but not very meaningful. But when you look up at the sculpture from the floor below, on the basement library level and down on it the from the first floor the exacting geometry of the sculpture reveals itself. The wider metaphor is about points of view. The viewer can look at the sculpture from one point of view and not understand the sculpture but change your point of view, as you move deeper into the building and the sculpture has a structure that become understandable. So it is about point of view. I think that the research and activities that happen in the Woolf institute help to reframe points of view and common structures within each of the Abrahamic religions so it is a very appropriate sculpture. I also think that within most religions there is the notion of an unseen, subtle and meaningful order.
What are the materials used in the sculpture?
The sculpture is made from wood that has been gold leafed in 24 carat gold. It is a very complex piece to make and took about 5 months, it was a very slow and exacting process.
How many pieces of wood are there?
Richard said 288 I think. (The sculpture was fabricated by Richard Gamester)
What are your hopes for your art work? What would you like people to see or be reminded of when they see the installation? I really hope that the staff and students of the Institute take the piece to heart. It really is a piece for them and a symbol of the research they do. I hope they treasure it and enjoy it. At the same time I hope that it does inspire people to look at things form a different point of view!
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