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Artist finds the perfect platform for huge sculpture inspired by rail travel



Eye-catching work using metal tubes and neon lighting takes pride of place at York Street Train Station in north Belfast

‘Journeylines’ was inspired by photographs taken on the track to Whitehead by artist Kevin Killen.

Over eight metres high, it’s made up of winding, intersecting metal tubes lined with LED neon lighting strips.

Translink, in partnership with the Golden Thread Gallery, carried out extensive engagement with the local community over the artwork.

Sarah McAvera, co-director of the gallery, said Mr Killen had been “very inclusive” with the project.

The gallery has also been hosting its own workshops and gathering input for some smaller community artwork that will be installed at the station later this year.

Mr Killen said: “The artwork explores the kinetic flux and movement of intersecting and interconnecting with each other, and it’s important that the artwork is not just sympathetic to its surroundings, but becomes an integral part of the landscape.

“When I read the tender for this project, and saw it involved travel and movement, I knew it would align well with my current body of work.”

The piece was designed with the help of virtual reality — a “game changer” in the world of sculpture and 3D art, according to the sculptor.

“I used an application called Gravity Sketch to create the image in 3D to scale and could use the precision in the technology to map out the pipes and lines to exactly how I wanted it to match the photographs,” he explained.

“I was able to use this to also create a 3D printed image of the sculpture so I could better visualise how it would look once completed.”

The sculpture is installed at York Street Train Station

He typically creates his 3D artwork using neon glass, but decided to use metal with LED strip lighting for this latest piece because of the sheer size of it.

He added: “Often my installations are a lot smaller, but this was going to be outside and much larger, so I decided to use metal beams to create this.

“But you still get the same effect using the lights along the lines and the bright colours.”

He first started creating 3D artwork as a teenager, often using scrap metal from his dad’s yard just outside Seaforde.

He has created sculptures for community projects, such as the cows at the Markethill roundabout, a horse and cart in Larne, and a thorn tree in Draperstown.

After completing an intense six-week course in the US in 2010, he decided to move into the medium of neon lights, working primarily with the glass rods to create more abstract pieces which “better represent these snapshots of lives and journeys, mimicking movement and energy”.

He has created large-scale light installations at the Market Place Theatre and Art Centre and The Argory, both in Co Armagh, and the FE McWilliam Gallery in Banbridge.

This project was his first time working with Translink.

He came up with the design from long-exposure photographs he took travelling from York Street to Whitehead.

“The oranges and yellows represent the street lights, the blue is more white light, and the entire palette of the artwork comes entirely from these photographs,” he said.

“I took about a dozen of the images and picked out the different lines and curves to form the bends in the piece.

“Yes, it’s abstract, but it’s based entirely from real life.

“I’m just so inspired by the movement and patterns created through the photography, and what I normally recreate through neon, but this time through metalwork and colour.”

To add a sense of movement and “kinetic energy”, he has installed LED lighting along the curves, “pulsating” in different patterns and colours to mimic breath and heartbeat.

He explained: “I find when I’m working on my pieces I’m calm, my breath slows down — and I want to transfer that energy into my work.

“Hopefully the movement of the light along the sculpture will give a sense of calm or help people take a moment and notice it as they’re rushing from the platform or trying to catch the next train.”

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