Ross Manning. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

The colour theories of Isaac Newton magically materialise in a spectacle of light, movement and sound in Volumes, a new body of works by Brisbane artist Ross Manning.

One of a handful of finalists in the now-defunct National New Media Award at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane last year, Manning was also included in NEW12 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne.

The rising star has been in the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts' sights for several years. The theme of light threading through the Festival's visual arts program this year provided PICA with the perfect opportunity to let him loose in its expansive central galleries.

Curator Leigh Robb says it is perfect timing to commission Manning to tackle his biggest project to date, one which takes his work to another level and marks his first solo show in a public institution.

"We're really delighted he was able to take on such a big commission as well as being part of the Festival and our big opening show for the year," she says.

In 1672 Newton proved colour was not a mixture of light and darkness and gave artists the gift of the colour wheel. Channelling this, Manning's layered kinetic assemblages use primary and complementary-coloured fluorescent lights and domestic fans which soar into the central space.

Washes of ever-changing colour are projected on to the walls and floor of the gallery, mixing colour in another realm.

Robb says they're subtle and dramatic, sensorial and primal. Optically charged, the whirring fans power the rotation of the works to create an understated rhythmic soundtrack.

"You're literally touched by the work with the breeze on your skin from the fans," she says.

In a smaller, darkened space, white light is projected across a floor of prisms through a dichroic filter (also used in the screening of 3-D movies, both in 3-D glasses and matching filters in the projectors), creating a wonderland of coloured light splashed around the walls.

A one-time service technician who cut his teeth repairing data projectors, TVs and electronic whiteboards, Manning used the experience to his advantage.

"I gained an understanding of how a colour electronic image is put together and used that as a departure point to pull it apart and mutate the technology, making it work for me and all the ideas I wanted to draw out of electronic media and colour," he says.

Rather than being influenced by figures in art, or experimental cinematic history, his sculpture is drawn from a personal and sonic perspective. He describes it in the jazz vocabulary of sound, adding the rhythm, looping, and repetition in the work all translate back to music.

Admitting to being completely nuts about music and passionate about sound, Manning will perform tonight at the opening of Volumes, using fan-powered instruments that he has designed and constructed.

"I can't (directly) play any instruments which is maybe the reason I build my own, to get the sound I want," he says. "I'll be using several instruments at once. The sound is all rhythmic and percussive with an off-kilter jazz style to it. It's partly machine operation and partly chance. It's not traditional at all, so I hope everyone is ready for it."

Despite his reservations, the opportunity to hear Manning's score through his custom instruments with his sculpture as a backdrop seems too good to miss.

Washes of ever-changing colour are projected . . . mixing colour in another realm.


The West Australian

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