West Beach Bar & Kitchen plays host to a unique piece of art: a stunning creation using neon lights depicting starling murmurations. The bespoke piece was created by local artist Andy Doig; we asked him a few questions about his work and the story behind the installation.
How long have you been creating artwork using neon lights?
It’s been 25 years since I first picked up a piece of glass and heated it in a flame. I was enthralled the first time I saw it being done in Chicago, and brought the craft home with me.
Why did you choose to set up your studio in Brighton?
I travelled to London to apprentice in neon and had an opportunity to stay there. But being from Brighton, my wife and I decided to make a go of it here instead. We set up Fishtail Neon Studios on Madeira Drive because it felt right, and we have been there ever since.
What was the inspiration behind the piece in West Beach Bar & Kitchen?
Who isn’t stopped in their tracks by the starling murmurations? What I particularly like is the initiation. Starting with the roosting; the starlings perching on rooftops and power lines, they then fly in small groups towards a common ground. That, I think, is the most mysterious bit.
How do you plan the creation of a piece like this?
The idea came very quickly. I made a sample bird to see whether it was possible to make them using very narrow tubing. Then, when I was sure the glass would enable the artwork, I started sketching starlings.
I drew each bird full size on paper, and used it as a template to bend the glass. Then, when everything was made, I laid them out over our studio floor, like jigsaw pieces, to visualise the entire gathering.
What was the most complex element of the construction?
Traditionally, small neon sections like this are ‘bridged’ one to another with more tubing that is then painted out to obscure the glow. But I wanted the natural space between each bird. I decided to make each one individually and then connect them electrically behind the mounting board.
I used a reflective background, and also one that would diffuse the light. The idea was to add the illusion of even more birds; the primary element, a secondary reflection and yet another reflected from the protective clear panel in front.
How did you feel when you were asked by the British Airways i360 team to create this piece for West Beach Bar & Kitchen?
I was very excited to be approached by David Marks and Julia Barfield to create the artwork. It’s fair to say I was nervous. But their calm, approachable manner and their openness to supporting a public art project like this, made it a rewarding experience. I hope people enjoy the neon installation and see it as something fun and beautiful.