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ZEK ONE-Before

This is such an innovative project Lennox has created, teaming up with five street artists to bring together art and engineering. What inspired you to create this project and how did you go about curating those particular artists?

Initially, it was Kyle Mitchell, who was one of the artistic directors, who contacted me and got the ball rolling while I was over in New Zealand working on other projects. The challenge, the idea, the basic premise of this project was: how can we create art through the process of heating and cooling by connecting it with our background, which is muralism and street art? The inspiration came for me when I began researching the different types of existing art that’s been made with hot and cold, as the theme. Through this research, I quickly came across all kinds of innovators that have been playing with thermo paints and colour-changing surfaces and I thought “Wow. This is awesome.” But then I thought, “Okay, so we’ve all seen toys change colours when we submerge them underwater and beer labels to tell us when our beer is cold enough to drink, mood rings, and things like that. So how can I, and we as a team, step away from these commercial prototypes and create a living, breathing version of this concept?” So that’s when we began to conceptualize taking these smaller-scale ideas and making them massive.

As for the artists, we obviously went with a high-calibre roster. Each artist is a highly-respected and celebrated pioneer in their respective communities, as well as in the street art culture. Second, we needed complete open-mindedness. Those who were not afraid to step outside of their comfort zones and experiment with completely new mediums. So that was the main thing: “Here’s this weird paint that changes colours. It doesn’t work yet but it will…!” Even more importantly was the level of trust between ourselves and these artists; a certain open-mindedness and willingness to experiment and innovate, together.

Can you please explain the engineering process behind this project with the use of thermochromic paint?

Well, it’s quite simple. We set out to develop a temperature-reactant paint, based on a preexisting thermochromic pigment. With that thermochromic pigment, we developed a specific type of paint – from scratch- that would be usable for the artists. After this development, we had to create structures on which this artwork would live and react to the paint we developed. That’s when Lennox and A’shop partnered up. We took care of the paint and artistic aspects; Lennox engineers took care of developing and engineering the structures.

As for the composition of the structures: they’re self-contained heating and cooling machines, that have a heating unit on one side and a cooling unit on the other. But the best part is that they’re constantly recycling the same air and not wasting the energy, at all. It’s on a timer, so roughly every 7 minutes the murals would cool and then eventually heat up, changing the artwork back and forth, every 7 minutes or so. The surface is constructed of aluminum since aluminum is the most conductive material that was available to us. The backing is all finely crafted ductwork and heating and cooling components. All in all, it was a huge collaboration between engineers and artists but also the craftsmen and Lennox dealers that put the structure together. A massive team effort.

Was there a significant amount of time needed in experimentation when creating each piece of art?

Definitely! From the time it took to design the work, research the paint, right to the moments leading up to the show. There was a huge portion that was dedicated to R&D. Then there was the time it took to develop the concepts and the art pieces. It wasn’t just a question of how it looked; it was mostly a question of how it worked. The primary task, when it came to the art pieces, was figuring out the layers. It wasn’t just slapping two images on top of each other. We had to think of the most seamless interaction between the two images. Traditionally, we develop one image and expect it to look and feel that way but, here, the challenge was now designing two completely separate, polarizing murals that would morph into one another. Perfectly. And, of course, all of this done while respecting the specific theme.

What reactions did you get from people and the artists themselves when viewing this amazing art exhibition as the paint reacted with a variety of temperatures?

Well, I’ll start with the reactions that I got before the event. The thing is a lot of people who know me and have worked with me for years, know that I’m constantly developing ideas and endlessly brainstorming weird shit.

Looking back, one of the most amazing things was really the difference between the original and final reaction, when at first it was just an idea like “Hey, we’re gonna make these colour changing walls!” and everyone just brushed it off with “Oh, okay, there goes Fluke with another one of his bizarre ideas.” Going from that to the very first and most nascent moment when the artists saw the murals transforming for the first time and their faces just shocked, excited, and relieved all at once like “Holy moly it worked. EUREKA!” In that very moment, I could feel and see this flow of imagination just streaming through all of these artists’ minds, racing much like my own, with endless possibilities.

As for the show, I have to say I was particularly impressed with how long people stayed in front of each piece and how many times they kept coming back to see it change again and again.

One of the most impressionable moments was watching people trying to figure it all out. Here’s the way I see it: today, we’re in an era of these incredibly innovative and surreal technological advances, what with holograms, 3D mapping and printing, basically a whole ton of smoke and mirrors. But here, during this show, people are seeing this wall evolve, morph, and transform with life, and I see them looking around, touching the artwork, searching for a mirror or projector then finally realize – there are no smoke and mirrors. This is real, this is now, it’s actually happening – for real. You’re touching the pieces, you feel the cold and hot air, through this literal interaction with the artwork. To see everyone’s sense of amazement and awe was definitely memorable, to say the least.

What message did you hope to communicate through this project and do you see yourself participating in more innovative projects like this in the future?

I think that this project speaks to what’s a deep part of my character and who I really am. As I’ve said, ask anyone and they’ll tell you that I can’t stay still for too long. This project was proof and a mark of inspiration to show how much anyone can accomplish by stepping outside of their comfort zones, like I mean really step out of them and go to the furthest corners. This way, you meet all these amazing innovators, inventors, and artists who push you even further, to come up with something amazing. Who knows what’s next? But that’s the coolest part, the excitement of what we’re all capable of.


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