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Project Name: Understory

Artist: Jade Oakley

Location: Westfield Parramatta

Materials: Glass . LED Lighting . Alucobond . Aluminium . Acrylic

Dimensions: 200 sqm

Description:  When Westfield commissioned Jade to design escalator cladding and a large lift well at Westfield Parramatta she was inspired by the indigenous plants of the area.

“I was amazed to find Lake Parramatta, tucked in behind a busy road, with some really beautiful original forest around it, including towering gum trees and mossy glades with trickling streams and tree ferns. I spent a day there sketching and photographing and thinking. Understory and Looking Up are artworks that sprang from this encounter with a surprising pocket of nature in a busy part of Sydney.”

The lift well surrounds were treated over four consecutive storeys, with void spaces in the shopping centre allowing three levels of the artwork to be visible at once.

Jade envisaged the lift well not as a conventional mural, but rather as an active and dimensional piece that could be interacted with, and exploring the Understory of the local forest with lichen, maidenhair ferns and dappled sunlight flowing through. The final artwork creates a narrative of the understory divided across the back and sides of the lift well. The back wall which can be viewed up close and has the strongest impact as shoppers walk through the centre became an active light box. The wall was treated with panels of custom laminated glass installed in front of programmed LED lights. The slowly dimming and glowing lights shine through tiny holes in the custom interlayer onto the frosted glass surface mimicking delicate rays of sunlight. Further dimension was added to the wall with drawings of maidenhair ferns that were subtly carved into the surface of the glass and spot lit from the front.

The side walls of the lift well were treated in Axolotl Shale lunar concrete creating an organic backdrop for the shimmering white laser cut maidenhair ferns screens that adorn the walls. The laser cut aluminium and clear acrylic screens appear to float above the surface, and the organic 3D profiles reflect the surrounding lights and seemingly sparkle as you walk by.

“From the mossy glades of Lake Parramatta, I drew the patterns of lichen on sandstone and spindly new maiden hair fern sprouting from the damp earth. I wanted Understory to have the feel of a glow worm cave, a sense of wonder and also contain the experience of quiet contemplation of the little details of Sydney’s bushland.“