No Bull with Chinese Ox Sculpture Illuminated by Astera

A large, illuminated Ox artwork created by Paul Wells from Sydney Props Specialists to celebrate the Chinese ‘Year of the Ox’ was illuminated with Astera Titan Tubes and NYX Bulbs and realised in collaboration with Sydney Event Services. This stood proudly on display in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, for three weeks during the 2021 Chinese New Year celebrations.

The work was commissioned by Sydney’s Harbour and Foreshore Authority. They approached Paul just four weeks ahead of this year’s Chinese New Year, and asked if the piece could be delivered as an internally lit steel-framed structure with stretched fabric skins.

Paul in turn asked Mitch Hancock from Sydney Events Services to assist with the project’s lighting and delivery.

Once work started on the Ox which is 1.16 metres wide and 2.4 metres long, Paul and Mitch soon realised time was simply too tight to complete the structure in hand-welded steel, so instead proposed the ingenious solution of 3D printing, a task expedited by a giant printing machine at Composite Images in Artarmon.

All the other design requirements stayed the same, and right from the outset Mitch proposed that Astera products should be used as the perfect lighting solution.

Mitch has been an Astera fan for some years – “I absolutely love the products,” he declared. He regularly uses all the current Astera ranges for multiple projects. He enjoys a great relationship with Astera’s Australia and New Zealand distributor, ULA Group.

For a project like the Ox, the two Titan Tubes and five NYX Bulbs inside were ideal due to their light weight and wireless control in addition to the beautiful colour ranges and super-smooth light output.

Two Titan Tubes illuminated the body, with the bulbs positioned to spread lumens down the limbs and into the head distributing it and achieving a nice even glow.

The Titan Tubes were secured using the various Astera mounting clip options, with the NYX Bulbs fitted into waterproof light sockets mounted directly inside the Ox.

Astera’s range of mounting accessories is always popular with clients and end-users and especially relevant for a unique installation like this and other one-off and custom scenarios as well as for all the standard applications.

Another major consideration was having weatherised lights, so the products being rain-resistant hit the spot and the client was also very specific about how the creature should be lit, so being able to control the lights quickly and easily via the Astera App made fine-tuning these details very straightforward.

The quality and appearance of the light was also critical, explained Paul. While it was initially planned to light the Ox only at night, switching on at dusk, the Asteras proved to be equally effective in full daylight, texturing the surfaces and generally giving the sculpture more depth and bringing it to life … so the installation was kept running 24 hours.

The electrics were all fed in / out through one of the ox’s hind legs and hooves, down into a waterproof plinth below on which it was mounted, keeping all the electrics safe and dry.

The client requested four different colour combinations and the plan was to choose one signature look, but the Astera App allowed Paul and Mitch to animate the lighting and create a sequence that scrolled seamlessly between all four lighting designs to the delight of the client.

The biggest challenge was creating a sculpture that would be safe, strong, and secure, and as a piece of public art it needed to meet the strictest engineering assessments and safety requirements, so this had to be kept in mind for all aspects of the build. This suited Paul and Mitch as they were able to think laterally, locally, and imaginatively in bringing the project to fruition, a process which both really enjoyed.

The Ox was a massive hit with the public in the Darling Harbour installation providing a myriad of Instagram moments.

Photo: © Paul Wells