Fahrenheit 451 artwork
To mark the launch of 451Life.com, I devised a large-scale artwork intended to be disassembled into 451 individual pieces, each constituent element a work of art in its own right. The concept was inspired by Ray Bradbury's prescient novel Fahrenheit 451 (so named because 451°F is the temperature at which paper catches fire), in which literature is banned, and hidden books are hunted down and burned.
The artwork references the book in a literal sense, with devices including the B52 bomber and the fire graphic, but in a general sense, it also tries to capture some of the book’s hauntingly prophetic atmosphere. The typewriter motif, for example, is a nod to the fact that Bradbury wrote the book on a rented typewriter in a UCLA basement. While it isn’t set in any particular year, Fahrenheit 451 was written in the early 1950s. While creating the artwork, I took some style cues from the commercial art of that era and gave them a new context.
Painting took place in the summer of 2015. First, I assembled a two-metre square bed of 451 tessellating pentagons, each made from subtly different shades and textures of plywood. On this bed, I built up a series of spray-painted stencilled layers, and recorded the process on a time-lapse camera.
Using spray paint and stencil allowed me to work relatively quickly on a large scale, while still keeping control of the detail. Though I had mapped a basic layout in advance, I left room for unpredictability during the process; some of the most interesting segments are the result of chance colour overlays and graphic combinations.
After completion, the individual pentagons were lifted piece by piece and catalogued with a unique edition number. Each segment was then backed with mountboard, and signed.
The result is 451 miniature pentagonal abstracts, to be collectively owned by subscribers to 451life. The segments create a unique connection between the otherwise disparate owners who could, in theory, bring them together to reconstruct the original painting. It’s an idea inspired by the closing chapter of Fahrenheit 451, in which sections of banned literary works are memorised by a small group of like-minded individuals in the hope that they may one day be recreated as complete books.
To be part of this unique project, go to 451Life.com, where you can sign up for free trial membership. You’ll find a short film about the project including a link to view all 451 individual segments, and to purchase them (subject to availability).
Music by Bepu N'Gali. The song is I Travel To You (International Feel Recordings)
Music is Typewriter performed by the Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra