Wolfgang Buttress is an artist based in Nottingham, UK with over 25 years experience of producing sculptures, paintings and installations. It is fundamental to his practice that artworks engage with their context and landscape. Increasingly Buttress has drawn inspiration from nature, collaborating with experts to explore and interpret scientific discoveries.
His artwork UNA, Canberra, Australia (2013) connects the star mapping research of astrophysicist Dr. Daniel Bayliss of the Australian National University (ANU) with a sculpture that captures a microcosm of our night sky inside a 4m diameter sphere. This research was also used for Lucent (2015) an installation in the iconic John Hancock Centre in Chicago, USA. His most acclaimed work to date is the UK Pavilion, Milan Expo 2015, which has won over twenty awards including the BIE’s Gold Award for Architecture and Landscape and the Italian Association of Architects “Best Pavilion” Milan Expo 2015. The sculptural centerpiece of the UK Pavilion, The Hive is now installed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London.
The Hive, highlights the decline of the world’s bee populations. Bees are very sensitive to their environment and can be seen as a barometer for the health of the earth. Pollination is an essential process, underwriting at least a third of our food production. Yet the honeybee is in crisis. We have witnessed massive declines in global bee populations resulting from a perfect storm of pesticide use, disease and loss of habitat. The Hive represents the intrinsic and important relationship between bee and human bringing together art, science, sound and landscape through an immersive and multi-sensory experience.
The Hive is an abstracted analogue of a honeycomb. A rotational twist in the structure introduces movement, suggestive of a swarm. The form is a 14m cube raised-up on columns, appearing almost to hover above the meadow. A spherical void hollowed from the centre, allows visitors to enter. Walking beneath the sculpture, visitors may peer up through the glass floor into the interior.
Wolfgang collaborated with Dr. Martin Bencsik, a physicist based at Nottingham Trent University, who uses accelerometers – devices sensitive to minute vibrations – to detect and translate vibrations caused by bees during their activities and as they communicate with one another. Accelerometers (vibration sensors) are used to measure the activity of a real bee colony living at Kew, feeding live signals to 1000 LED luminaires which line the interior of the Hive. Algorithms are used to convert these vibrational signals into lighting effects, allowing the Hive to convey a visual representation of the state of the colony. This visual experience is complemented by a soundscape based upon pre-recorded bee sounds and harmonious stems crafted by an ensemble of musicians. The Hive acts as a medium or interface, conveying the activity of bees directly to the visitor at that point in time. Each instance is unique and changing, no two moments are the same.
Wolfgang is currently working on new sculptures in Taiwan, United States of America, United Kingdom and Turkey.