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E-Cyclorama by Sanford Wurmfeld at Edinburgh College of Art
Sanford Wurmfield, E-Cyclorama. Photo: © Duncan Macmillan.

EDINBURGH.- The Edinburgh College of Art is proud to present the first showing of the E-Cyclorama, the latest work by New York artist, Sanford Wurmfield.

The E-Cyclorama is a painting, but a painting that you’re immersed in, that you view from within. Painted on the inside of a huge cylinder, using one hundred and nine separate colours on more than seven hundred square feet of canvas, the E-cyclorama surrounds its audience, filling the field of vision with a rainbow of shifting colour. The colour moves through the spectrum, but the transitions are rendered in so subtle a way, that you can never be sure where one colour ends and the next begins. The effect is dynamic, an experience almost more like music than painting, more like surround-sound painting. The E-Cyclorama is presented as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2008.

The artist, Sanford Wurmfeld lives and works in New York. He has spent a year painting the E-Cyclorama. His first experiment with this format, called simply the Cyclorama 2000, generated great popular interest when it was shown Edinburgh in 2004. The new work is quite different in shape and in colour key from the first version. The ‘E’ in ‘E-Cyclorama’ stands for elliptical and its plan is oval, 8 x 10 metres.

The oval shape of the E-Cyclorama is inspired by the oval plan of many Baroque churches. The effect is baroque too. Because of the oval, not only does the colour change constantly as your eye moves across the painted surface, its distance from you changes too, increasing the uncertainty of what you are seeing. The colour shifts from brilliant yellow at one end to deep violet at the other, passing through quieter intermediate colours in between. It provides a visual experience unlike any other.

The Cyclorama form the artist has used derives from the original Panorama, a painted public entertainment in this format invented by Robert Barker in Edinburgh in 1788. Barker’s first panorama was a circular view of the city from the top of Calton Hill. The panorama subsequently became hugely popular during the nineteenth century, prefiguring the cinema as visual entertainment. Known under various names, in the United States the panorama became known as the cyclorama. Sanford Wurmfeld’s decision to revive the form in Edinburgh brings the cyclorama full circle.

The E-Cyclorama has not been seen anywhere before. The complex oval stretcher has been made in Edinburgh by Ben Dawson Furniture, while in New York the artist painted the four canvasses that are joined together in the finished painting. When these parts are brought together in Edinburgh College of Art it will be the first time the work will be seen in its entirety, even by the artist himself. There can be no images of the finished work till then. The images that are available now are of the four canvasses seen either separately, or joined together to form a single flat painting 27 metres long.

The exhibition is curated by Duncan Macmillan, Professor Emeritus of the University of Edinburgh and Curator of the Talbot Rice Gallery.

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