British artist and set designer Es Devlin gives a “visual voice” to the artists and actors who seek out her ability to transform stages and sets into something truly extraordinary.
Devlin describes her unique approach to marrying her art with the art of her clients, saying, “What I try to do is I bring my voice into their voice. It’s a meeting of voices. Their medium is not visual… a lot of the musicians I work with, their medium is music, so I am translating from their core medium into what is mine.”
Having designed stages and sets for Beyoncé, Kanye West, the London Olympics, among others, Devlin understands how to use space and scale to inspire awe and contemplation to all who stand back and survey the “stage” in its entirety.
In her most recent installation, “Memory Palace,” Devlin used a massive space, further amplified by mirrors and visual illusion, to convey the journey of humanity – past, present, and future. The work, which will soon conclude a showing at the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery in London, features noteworthy events in humanity, carved from bamboo and given life and dimension.
Constructed in a rounded room that makes the viewer feel as if they are standing on the edge of the world, “Memory Palace” takes spectators along a timeline of the world. It includes ancient cave drawings in Africa, Nicolaus Copernicus’ drawing the first heliocentric map of the universe, the pivotal moment when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, and finally, activist Greta Thunberg’s 2018 strike to bring awareness to climate change.
Devlin hopes that her work will inspire viewers to take ownership of the future of humanity and the planet. As she said in a recent interview, “It’s the shift we are now beginning to undertake as we re-evaluate all of our practices in the light of the climate crisis. It’s my hope that surrounded by the traces of our historical leaps of imagination, the viewer will feel a sense of possibility that our species can achieve another momentous collective shift of perspective.”