Litmus is a site-specific sculptural installation by Sydney-based sculptor Ari Purhonen for the UTS Faculty of Science building [CB04]. The lenticular construction, set into the building’s Thomas Street façade, is made up of hundreds of individually painted aluminium strips that are angled to produce a visual sequence across two distinct bands of colour. Approached from one direction the wall appears to shift from yellow to red; from the opposite end of the street it moves from green to blue, constantly changing with the movement of the viewer. This colour range departs from the simple blue/red indicators implied by the work’s title, to allude to a wider range of measurement scales used in scientific analysis of materials and light.
Purhonen’s minimal yet sophisticated artwork is not only optically dynamic – its play on parallax explores the artist’s thesis that science and art are inextricably linked through the study of colour and light.
Ari Purhonen was born in Finland in 1953 and came to Australia in 1966. In 1975 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Architecture) from the University of New South Wales and worked briefly as an architect before turning to sculpture in the mid 1980s. From 1986 Purhonen taught sculpture and jewelry design and was Lecturer in Sculpture at the Tin Sheds art workshop at the University of Sydney. Since 1980 Purhonen exhibited widely in Australia, America and New Zealand with more than twenty solo exhibitions including Sculpture 1982-1990 at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, 1990 and Speed of Light at the Potter Gallery University of Melbourne, in 2003. His works have been selected for major group exhibitions and awards including the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award, 2002; Mildura Sculpture Triennial, 1985; the Australian Sculpture Triennial, Melbourne, in 1984, 1990 and 1993; and Australian Perspecta, Sydney, in 1985 and 1991.
In addition to his smaller wall-based and freestanding sculptures Purhonen has created several major public art commissions including Osmosis (1999) Olympic Park Sydney, Whitecaps (2011) at the Melbourne Docklands, and Beacon (2013) commissioned by the City of Hobart.
Ari Purhonen’s work is represented in public and private collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, and the sculpture walk at Werribee Park, Victoria (Lempriere Trust).