Revolutionary Stage Design

Last Tuesday, Year 12 art students had the fantastic opportunity to visit artist Es Devlin’s studio, where we had the chance to converse with one of the world’s most influential stage designers.

Known for her large-scale ‘stage sculptures’, Devlin has produced an immense body of work including a huge, unfolding paper-aeroplane for The Weekend’s 2017 tour, an elaborate Louis Vuitton runway show filled with 200,000 hand-fixed mirrors, and a forest of 400 trees planted in the courtyard of Somerset House predicted to have locked up a staggering 1.3 million tonnes of carbon, an amount equivalent to 600 flights from London to Sydney. 

These descriptions alone do not convey the spectacle of her work. With her influence far-reaching, Devlin has revolutionised the way we view stage design, pushing the boundaries of design and challenging the viewer to re-evaluate their perceptions of sculpture itself. 

Perhaps the most inspiring message taken the afternoon, encapsulated in Devlin’s statement ‘wherever your instinct is taking you now… hold onto that and follow it’, was particularly resonant in the context of the uncertainty of the past two years, in which it has become increasingly difficult to pursue creative endeavours.

Devlin described how she overcame the challenges brought about by the pandemic, exploring new artistic mediums and producing a powerful film ‘I Saw the World End’, which was displayed virtually on Piccadilly Circus’ massive advertisement screens. 

Additionally, we were able to tour Devlin’s studio, discussing the collaborative effort involved in producing her installations with her team of talented architects and designers. Furthermore, we were able to view numerous models that inspired her previous and upcoming work, demonstrating the complex processes involved in producing her sculptures which often stem from her fixation on light and its properties. 

Devlin’s profound installations have served as an inspiration for many Year 12 students’ work, with this experience reinforcing her position as one of the most influential artists in recent memory. 

You can see examples of Es Devlin’s work on her website and her most current work can be seen in person at Somerset House.