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Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk)..
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk)..
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit:A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk)."
This skink was a collaboration between the Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains, Aboriginal Visual Artist Elizabeth Close, and A Blanck Canvas. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).
Underwater installation. Image credit: A Blanck Canvas; Photographer: Reuben Gore (Topbunk).

During last year’s COVID lockdown, A Blanck Canvas, founded in 2013 by Melbourne-based artist Joe Blanck, decided to create something big and beautiful that could be showcased outdoors when it was safe for people to go out and congregate together again.

The A Blanck Canvas team had previously worked with several zoos, which are great outdoor locations to experience art. With the support of Adelaide Zoo, the idea flourished, and the interactive installations developed into Light Creatures at Adelaide Zoo as part of the Illuminate Adelaide festival.

"We have worked with zoos many times before,” says A Blanck Canvas founder, Joe Blanck. “The best jobs we have done have always been about creating awareness for endangered animals and doing something that has more of a positive outcome, rather than just something pretty to look at.”

The Light Creatures at Adelaide Zoo artworks included two towering giraffes, Adelaide Zoo’s own pandas eating bamboo, a huge colourful skink, and Underwater World. The larger animals are inflatable with backlighting, whereas the smaller and more intricate elements are made from EPE foam.

Foamex EPE foam sheets are lightweight

A Blanck Canvas chanced upon the idea of working with EPE foam sheets instead of the more traditional material (fibreglass) for these interactive art installations in a novel way.

“I actually discovered EPE foam sheets a few years ago when I unwrapped an electronics product that had packaging in it,” Blanck explains. “It appeared to be lightweight, flexible, and strong. We’d previously used fibreglass, which is heavy, hard to work with, and gives off nasty chemicals.”

Foamex’s EPE foam sheets are lightweight, semi-rigid, and are mostly used in packaging for impact and shock absorption, vibration dampening, and surface protection. They are also ideal for theatre and art installations.

EPE foam is easy to shape, form, and cut, and is also dust-free, water-resistant, non-toxic, and non-abrasive, making it safe to work with. Plus, it is 100% recyclable and easily glued together with non-toxic hot glue.

“EPE is particularly good for small items that have sharp edges or angular details and is easy to hand sculpt,” agrees Blanck. “The intricate details of beautiful creatures like the jellyfish in the Adelaide Zoo installation are easily imagined used EPE. It’s also great to paint.”

“Foamex’s EPE foam sheets are lightweight, semi-rigid, and ideal for theatre and art installations.”

The translucent properties of EPE foam

Lighting is a key element of an evening outdoor art installation and the EPE sheets have excellent translucent properties. In some cases, the LED lights are embedded in the foam, and others are backlit.

EPE foam was used extensively in the underwater installation, where people walk amongst the sea creatures to give a feeling of being underwater. The interactive and complex piece is made up of 10 luminescent winch-controlled jellyfish, five translucent fish that are programmed to create the illusion of swimming through the giant colour-changing coral, and a large 10-metre glowing anglerfish.

The bamboo which formed part of the panda display was also formed from EPE foam and painted. The two Panda installations were based on the Zoo’s very own infamous Pandas – Wang Wang and Funi. The six-metre-high illuminate inflatables are engineered to playfully roll on their backs and oscillate their heads to eat bamboo.

All items were created in A Blanck Canvas’ workshop in Coburg in Melbourne’s north and transported to South Australia.

Great feedback from Adelaide Zoo

Adelaide Zoo is not usually open in the evenings, so it was a new venture and wasn’t guaranteed to draw a crowd. However, A Blanck Canvas’ Light Creatures at Adelaide Zoo installation was met with high praise by the zoo’s staff and their visitors.

“Many of the shows sold out, which means Adelaide Zoo was very happy with the installation,” A Blanck Canvas’s Joe Blanck explains. “And they are already speaking to us about next year’s event.

“We’re also looking at other opportunities to tour the installation to other festivals and zoos around the country.”

EPE sheets are also commonly used in visual merchandising because of their versatile properties.”

EPE sheets are manufactured using steam, heat, and pressure

EPE starts as raw material (Polyethylene resins made from HCFC-free & CFC-free gasses), which are then manufactured into sheets using a process that combines steam, heat, and pressure. Sheets are cut into various sizes and lengths depending on the clients’ needs. All offcuts are either recycled or donated to the Arts by Foamex.

EPE sheets are also commonly used in visual merchandising, such as window displays, because of their versatile properties.

Interested in learning more about how Foamex can supply EPE foam sheets for your next project? Contact your local Foamex sales office to discuss your requirements.

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