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Pipilotti Rist "Sparkling Pond, Bold-Coloured Groove & Tender Fire (Please walk in and let the colours caress you)", 2018

Pipilotti Rist, Sparkling Pond, Bold-Coloured Groove & Tender Fire, Central Park in Sydney. Photograph: Mark Pokorny

The internationally acclaimed artist Pipilotti Rist has created an engaging suite of floor projections and a vivid wall of coloured glass for the publicly accessible, open-air undercroft space of 5 Park Lane, one of the residential towers at the new city precinct Central Park in Sydney.

The commission is Rist’s first permanent outdoor video work. It transforms Park Lane’s unassuming undercroft space into a dazzling universe of colour, forms and meanings. From the project’s outset, Rist said she wanted to create ‘a visual and sensory experience … that holds a place in the collective memory for people passing through the space and living around it’. 

From sunset to midnight every night, gently animated video scenes are projected onto the floor of the undercroft space in three locations. The largest of them appears on the ground like an ‘urban electronic bonfire’, as Rist puts it – the ‘fire’ of the title. The smallest orb of moving coloured light sits at the far end of the space, like a spotlight on a stage that transforms viewers into actors. The slowly wobbling outlines of the projections invite us to interact, ‘to take showers in the coloured light’. At the same time, they ‘remind us not only to use our eyes and brains but also to actively engage our entire bodies with temperatures of light and colour’, as Rist says. The use of juicy hues in the coloured glass wall is an homage to the colours found in Sydney’s intense daylight and luscious vegetation.

A marvel of the Central Park location is its accessibility, and the work has an appealing latitude and freedom. Not only does it eschew rigid directional boundaries and prescribed paths of engagement, it is free and open to all: like coming upon a refreshing pool – the ‘pond’ of the title – after a long walk on a hot day. 

From the moment Rist’s art emerged in the 1980s, it has been recognised as inspiring and important. Sparkling Pond, Bold-Coloured Groove & Tender Fire demonstrates the artist’s continuing evolution in an art practice already recognised with awards, honours and many innovative ‘firsts’. In the new work, these innovations include the creation of a gently upwards-curving and undulating contour created for the projections by transposing right-angled images into the form of a sphere.

The Central Park development presents the greatest concentration of privately commissioned artworks in the local government area of Sydney. Commissions are by an extraordinarily distinguished group of artists hailing from diverse locales across the globe, including Australia, France, Japan, Switzerland and the USA. These artists were selected for their visual intelligence and capacity to create original, site-specific works that will remain relevant for years to come. Each of the installations offers residents and passers-by an opportunity to pause their day-to-day routines and contemplate their surroundings in new ways.