The Physics Department at the University of Bristol has played host to a number of artist residencies. In 2002 artist, Richard Box was awarded a Leverhulme Grant to become the department's third artist in residence. Whilst the starting point for other artists have varied, Richard's main interest was in the specialist glass blowing workshop that is integrated alongside the rest of the physics research activities. His interest in glass has always required him to have objects made by others, this residency offered him the chance to begin to learn how to develop his own glass blowing skills and so have greater authority over his own work. The highly skilled glass blower based at the University makes specific glass wear for all the science department's needs. John Rowden was enthusiastic to pass on his knowledge and to work closely with an artist who was interested not only in learning these skills, but to re interpret some of the functions of what are primarily very beautiful looking objects. The influence of glass on all aspects of scientific discovery should not be underestimated, from the lens to the test tube..............
FIELD represents a considerable development in Richard's work, whilst previous projects have included ambiguous glass objects much of the outcome has been photographic. FIELD is a major undertaking which will include the installation of several thousand ready made glass fluorescent tubes. The bulbs will be 'planted' across the site at the foot of an electricity pylon, and will pick up the waste emission from the over head power line. The piece is simple yet spectacular, making visible what would otherwise go unnoticed. The FIELD of tubes will flicker in to life across the hillside as the early evening light fades. The performance each evening is hard to anticipate as the daily operation of the electricity supply will differ and is always dependent on the weather. In all the best traditions of land art it is conditional on the variations of the great outdoors, and requires its audience to be patient. Here a parallel can be struck between FIELD and Walter DeMaria's, Lightning Field sited in the Nevada Desert - many visitors travel for days to see if, camp beside it and are lucky if they experience the sort of storm that will make the lightning dance across the 'field' of conductors.
Richard Box is specific about the best time to visit FIELD, and, as you leave your car at the car park just off the M4 (see information on how to locate the piece) you embark upon the 10 minute walk so starting your experience of the work. There is something of the demonic 'end of the rainbow'; we see giant rows of pylons across the countryside but how often do we make the journey to stand at any proximity to them, pitting our scale against these great architectural forms and the comparative vastness of the landscape. From this site we discover that we have been guided to the top of a hill from where we can see west out across Bristol and towards Wales across the Severn Estuary, always reminded that, although we feel as though we are in the 'country', in the background we can hear the continual murmur of the traffic on the M4 and the drama of the pylon.