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In Profile: Jon Voss

Rice Daubney architect Jon Voss creates sculptures and installations that fuse the forms of nature with the mechanical.

In Profile: Jon Voss


June 30th, 2011

Architect, artist and sculptor Jon Voss has exhibited as part of Vivid Sydney, and is now in the running for the Willoughby Sculpture Prize 2011. Indesignlive spoke to Voss about the stories behind his works.

Where does the inspiration for your sculptural pieces come from?

A large part of what I do comes from a love of machines and all things mechanical but the form is, in part, borrowed from the elegant lines of nature. The symbiosis of these completely opposed forms and ideas intrigues me.



Does your daily work as an architect inform your sculpture, and vice versa? How so?

A building is a very complicated thing. It has many masters, not just the multiple architects that may work on it.

I believe an architect’s aim, amongst others, is to manage the many hurdles that a required design may produce and this is invariably a difficult and complicated challenge. In contrast my art is very much more controllable, the ideas are simple and often playful and I am free to develop them without external input.


I would like to think that when opportunity presents I can merge the two to some extent but buildings have a very different purpose to those of sculpture and sometimes it is not appropriate to blur the boundaries without careful consideration as to why.


What was the concept behind Umbrella Bird at Saw Millers, Blob, and Arm?

Arm was a scale version of an enormous robotic arm whose design purpose was, for various reasons, to attract people to it.

Arm touched on my perception of my mother’s approach to machines. She saw them as ghastly, dirty, noisy things, a necessary evil that should be hidden away in servitude.


To this end Arm was designed to love and crave human interaction, the misunderstood friendly giant.

It would wave seeking attention from people far away, an interested patron who came close would have the piece fall down in a controlled fashion from its lofty position to ’embrace’ the startled viewer. The intent therefore was a huge heavy machine with a friendly, unexpectedly deft touch.

The piece was machined from polished aluminium and powered by air muscles.

Blob is one of a series of illustrations that I have recently been working on, They orientate around a theme of machines, complex and mechanical, each with a different function from an automated barber’s chair to a feather flutterer. They are ink drawings using various gold, white gold and silver leaf overlay.


Umbrella Bird is a piece that alludes to the environmental threat that our wildlife and we now face from our polluting activities. The bird pulls out from the water in mangrove-like strands, coated in a rich oily layer.


The piece was made using recycled materials including a scrapped motorbike chassis pulled from a skip and a Hills Hoist drying line. Umbrella Bird will be on show again at the Willoughby Sculpture Exhibition starting 20 August.



What does this creative outlet give you?

Whilst I enjoy managing and creating within the formal constraints of architecture I get enormous satisfaction from producing art without the constraints that I have in other parts of my working life.

I have a constant flow of ideas for images and sculptures that run through my head on a daily basis. I feel I need to be able to release and realise, at least some of these ideas.



Are you working on anything right now following your last Vivid installation?

I constantly have many pieces that I am considering and developing through sketch and models. One such piece is a large proposal for the next Vivid Sydney show but it’s early days yet and quite ambitious so we shall see how that pans out.


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