Nelson glassmaker brings St Elmo's Fire to Wellington LUX show video

BRADEN FASTIER / Stuff.co.nz

Nelson Glass and Neon artist Anthony Genet pictured with his piece "St Elmos Fire" to be exhibited in the Wellington Lux festival.

A Nelson artist's flashing, pulsating neon sculpture based on a strange weather phenomenon will help light up a Wellington festival.  

The 4.3 metre, 120kg twist of metal, glass and neon lighting has been created by Anthony Genet for the LUX Light Festival next week.

The sculpture is called St Elmo's Fire. A black pole masks a mass of electrical wires where a control-box feeds five spherical shapes, engineered with squiggly glass tubes. As the tubes flash red, the whole system subtly hums and vibrates.

One of the "great balls of fire" has a smattering of colour which Genet said was to draw people into his work.

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"My job is to make things look interesting. I work with the principle that if it's wrong, it's right. I like people to be challenged by things."

 It's been over a year since the idea to build a "sculpture of light" that represents a natural phenomenon popped into Genet's mind.

Nelson Glass and Neon artist Anthony Genet pictured with his piece "St Elmo's Fire" to be exhibited in the Wellington ...
BRADEN FASTIER

Nelson Glass and Neon artist Anthony Genet pictured with his piece "St Elmo's Fire" to be exhibited in the Wellington Lux festival.

His inspiration came from the tales of St Elmo's Fire, a weather phenomenon. It occurs atop high points, like masts on a ship, when low-pressure weather systems become electrically charged and create an ionisation in the atmosphere. 

The result is a fiery glow that looks like neon. It has been noted throughout history as a sign from God or among sailors as a good omen following poor weather.

For Genet it was a subject to channel his long-term love affair with his chosen artistic medium with science.

"When I was a child my grandmother used to take me into town on a Friday night in Christchurch. I used to love watching the neon signs from Cathedral Square," he said.

The dazzle never faded and it's been 30-odd years since Genet began experimenting.

Last year three of the larger neon light balls were set up at the Nelson Light Festival while Genet continued to build his supporting structure.

He said he hated to think of the number of hours put into the project but it was worth-while seeing it completed.

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"It's nice to be able to take a little bit of Light Nelson to Wellington. "I'm pleased that I can hopefully make 100,000 people happy."

Genet said the project could not have been possible without the help of volunteers from Light Nelson, particularly Nelson College for Boys student Jamie Foster who built the electrical component that powers the sculpture's light sequences.

"It's nice to be part of something that's bigger than me," Genet said.

A truck will take the sculpture up to Wellington for the LUX Light Festival this week. It will remain on display in Frank Kitts Park from May 12 to 21 when it will return to Nelson.

Genet plans to erect the sculpture in his backyard behind his Selwyn Place gallery, Flame Daisy for the public to admire.

 - Stuff

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