THE ART OF VOX

VOX Cape Town’s principal musical vision is to create immersive, multisensory experiences for its audiences. Typically, these projects extend much further than the music and usually require accompanying visual motifs. This has often given rise to unique works of art and these commissions demonstrate VOX Cape Town’s commitment to the broader creative community.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Casey Driver was commissioned to design a motif for our annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Casey, also one of our bass singers, writes: 

VOX Cape Town’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols features traditional Christmas music with a local flavour. This offered a great starting point in the conception of the album art. Cape Town’s pride, Table Mountain, features prominently in the centre of the motif. It is shrouded by a dense, inky black sky with stars glowing warmly overhead.

Summer nights in Cape Town are balmy and, on the hottest nights, without any wind, the air hangs heavily over the city and mountain. I chose ink – with its thick, impenetrable opacity when used neat – to capture this heavy feeling. And in washes, it lends a dream-like nostalgia to the scene; a feeling of Christmas.

We wanted to incorporate the Southern Cross into the design too. It is our prominent “local” cross and a lovely natural symbol that harks back to the reason Christmas is celebrated. It stands out brightly against the darkness, watching over the mountain.

Origami Disas

For its performance at the UCT Irma Stern Museum in July 2019, entitled “Flower Songs”, VOX Cape Town commissioned origami artist Tim Povall to create a unique motif to reflect the special floral heritage of the Cape. Tim writes:

The disa is a genus of orchid found in Southern Africa. For me, encounters with disas usually took place on Table Mountain. The species I would see were either the red disa (Disa uniflora) or the blue disa (Disa graminifolia).

The first step in the design of the origami disas involved allocating areas of the paper to parts of the disa. This was done using a mathematical theory of folding called tree theory. The accompanying images show the labelled sketch of a disa and the allocation of the regions of paper using tree theory. Although tree theory is a useful tool for obtaining the basic shape, the further refinement of the shape of the piece is a more intuitive process.

The level of detail in the model is dictated by the thickness and size of the paper used. In this case the paper I used for the disa flowers was made by Richard Alexander and me at the Origamido Studio in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The paper is made from abaca, which is a relative of the banana plant. Abaca fibre makes for excellent origami paper, as it is extremely durable. Along with colourfast pigment, mica was also added to the pulp. This creates an iridescent effect on the paper.

The disas were folded using an origami technique called wet-folding, in which the paper is kept damp while folding. When compared to dry folding, the wet-folding technique allowed for more detail to be imparted to the piece. Wet-folded pieces, once dry, also hold their shape very well. The leaves in the piece are each wet-folded from a rectangle of abaca paper.

The stems are made by winding strips of paper around a wire. The pot in which the disa plants sit is also folded paper. The crease pattern for the pot, which includes curved creases, was designed algorithmically. The crease pattern was scored into the paper using a laser.

When designing the disas, it was important to me to accurately recreate the unique shape of each species. To verify the accuracy, I consulted with the world-renowned botanist Dr Stuart Hall. I am grateful that VOX invited me to make this piece. I am very fond of these orchids and designing them brought back wonderful memories of hot summer hikes on Table Mountain.

Commemorative Magnets

Jennifer Matlock, an alto singer in VOX, has created a very special tradition at the end of every year. She writes:

I started producing a commemorative cast resin magnet for each singer at the end of VOX Cape Town’s first full year, 2016. We had performed our “Trust The Silences” concert earlier that year and the image for the concert was a beautiful, partially fractured tree, designed by Emily Hallinan and adapted by James Rink. I was experimenting with polymer clay sculpture and resin casting at the time as a hobby, and decided to sculpt a relief version of the tree on a little medallion as a keepsake for John and Kyle to remind them of their achievement in putting together a great concert with a very newly-formed choir.

I created the initial sculpture in polymer clay, then decided to make a silicon mould of it so that I could cast some resin versions containing a little bit of glow-in-the-dark powder for some extra shine at night. On presenting the first casting to John, he suggested that I produce more as an end-of-year gift for the rest of the choir, so I created more moulds to increase my production rate, and produced another 35-odd little resin medallions, this time with a magnet embedded in the back. Each contained glow powder, and was hand finished with gold and silver paint to bring the design of the tree and lettering out. They were somewhat rough and lacked polish but making them was very satisfying and they were received well by the other choir members.

Materials: Smoothcast 300 polyurethane resin, SoStrong pigments, Mold Max 30 silicone rubber, Sculpey polymer clay, GlowWorm powder, gold and silver acrylic paint, button magnets.

2017: Towards the end of 2017 I asked John and Kyle if they would like me to make another magnet, and they agreed. I based the design of this one on one of the promotional images for our “Northern Lights” concert. The image showed a person silhouetted against the lights. My design once against included glow powder so that the aurora would shine in the dark.

Materials: Smoothcast 300 polyurethane resin, SoStrong pigments, Mold Max 30 silicone rubber, Sculpey polymer clay, GlowWorm powder, black acrylic paint, button magnets.

2018: The next year’s magnets featured part of the design from the promotional material for our performance of the “Stabat Mater” by Karl Jenkins in St George’s Cathedral. I wanted the design to float above the silver background, so I cast the magnet using multiple layers separated by clear resin.

Materials: Smoothcast 300 polyurethane resin, Epoxacast690 epoxy resin, SoStrong pigments, Mold Max 30 silicone rubber, Sculpey polymer clay, imitation silver leaf, black acrylic paint, button magnets.

2019: After three years of producing magnets for the choir, I was looking forward to creating the 2019 edition. This time, I went with a relief sculpture of a red Disa uniflora to tie in to our “Flower Songs” concert, and the beautiful origami disas we wore as brooches.

Materials: Smoothcast 300 polyurethane resin, SoStrong pigments, Mold Max 30 silicone rubber, Sculpey polymer clay, acrylic paint, flexible sheet magnets.

More images coming soon…