Designing space differently
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The light magician

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Jamie Barrett alias FUTURETRO is full of enthusiasm as he explains how he discovered PLEXIGLAS® for his art: “The material just blew my mind!” His sculptures are a symbiotic mixture of material, light, color and sound.

They shift colors like chameleons and pulsate to the beat of music, they shine in the dark like coral reefs, they sparkle in sunlight like colorful geysers – FUTURETRO’s unique sculptures are inspired by the beauty of nature.

The path to FUTURETRO’s PLEXIGLAS® sculptures began with his early passion for painting and leads through the workshop of his grandfather, who was a carpenter. It was from him that he learned the techniques for working with wood, and he also inherited his tools. PLEXIGLAS® can be processed like wood, but offers additional unique design options. “It was completely groundbreaking for my art – due to its ability to be shaped, its low weight, optical properties, colors and surfaces,” says the artist, emphasizing that the brand acrylic glass from Röhm is the only way to achieve the effects he wants. For the sculptures, he mainly uses PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent, PLEXIGLAS® Satinice and colorless PLEXIGLAS® GS.

Opposites attract

Jamie Barrett – FUTURETRO – loves combining opposites in his art. This is clear from his alias, and in the “Naturesynth” series of sculptures, in which he transforms the synthetic material PLEXIGLAS® into organic shapes. “People who only recognize acrylic glass from shop displays are amazed at how this rigid, two-dimensional material can be turned into such organic sculptures,” says FUTURETRO. These design options are made possible by the thermoplastic properties of PLEXIGLAS®, which can be turned into fascinating shapes with the application of heat.

Source: YouTube / FUTURETRO

FUTURETRO’s – first geometric light sculptures have developed into audio-visual artwork with integrated electronics. This technology turns music into dancing light and makes even the oscillations of plants both visible and audible. The interactive sculptures can be integrated into smart home systems or connected to smartphone microphones.

Caught up in the dynamism of the material

The British artist has become very familiar with the diverse properties of PLEXIGLAS® thanks to his years of experimentation using the material, which has allowed him to refine his processing technique through trial and error. FUTURETRO describes the creative process in the studio as like dancing with the material.

He works alone in order to fully engage with the flow – which also means a lot of twisting and turning to coordinate all the steps involved in creating his complicated sculptures. One of the largest sculptures is almost three meters tall and consists of hundreds of pieces of PLEXIGLAS®, each of which has been bent up to ten times. “I often felt I needed ten pairs of hands to handle my heat and cold equipment and the material at the same time. It must certainly have looked funny at times,” he says, smiling a little at the thought.

A heat gun proved very useful for thermoforming, but the artist then faced the next challenge: “I can’t exactly stand around with every piece until it cools down and I can continue shaping it. That would take forever.” He therefore created his own custom set of tools, comprising heat and cold air guns with different nozzles.

PLEXIGLAS® turns into a living thing in FUTURETRO’s hands

The most important tools are fire-resistant gloves, like the ones workers in foundries wear, which the artist uses to create his organic shapes. After trying several different versions, he found a brand which allows him the fine touch he needs. “I could finally work the PLEXIGLAS® directly in my hands without burning myself and reconstruct the fantastic, flowing shapes we see in bioluminescent deep-sea creatures,” FUTURETRO says.

He even found the sweet spot at which PLEXIGLAS® creates the optimum result. Now, he can take any piece of the material and knows just how much heat and pressure he needs to apply and how long he has to shape it. “Working with PLEXIGLAS® has become my second nature,” says the artist. “For me, it is a magical material. There is nothing that compares to it.”

Glass comes closest to it, considers FUTURETRO, but it has too many limitations, as it is brittle and fragile. In his experience, PLEXIGLAS® is even more stable after forming than in its original state, as the molecular structure changes. Making his sculptures from glass would also result in significantly higher material costs.

Bundle of energy

Jamie Barrett alias FUTURETRO next to his sculpture “Naturesynth 6”: “I want to capture the energy that flows through me.”

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Light spiral

“Gloob stack 2” (33 cm x 32 cm) is an interactive light sculpture with a remote controlled color changing LED light source and of 19 rotating disks of PLEXIGLAS® Satinice, creating a harmonious and homogeneous diffusion of light.

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“Kerooom reflect 2” (65 cm x 27 cm) is made from PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent and clear acrylic tube, steel rod, aluminium tube, mirror acrylic and a blacklight blue (UV) light source.

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Optical orchestra

FUTURETRO uses audio-visual installations to make music visible. “3-DELEQ” reacts to sound by a sound to light driver and sequence driver.

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“Naturesynth 3” (157cm x 65cm): The organically shaped sculptures from the “Naturesynth” series consist of leftover parts from other fluorescent PLEXIGLAS® sculptures.

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Interior illumination

“Soma” (200cm x 45cm) is made of PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent, aluminium tube, clear acrylic tube, River Red Gum tree burr, mahogany, sound to light driver with integrated microphone, sequence driver and a color changing LED light source.

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PLEXIGLAS® in combination with light

The biggest advantage is the way PLEXIGLAS® interacts with light – a factor which forms the foundation of the FUTURETRO sculptures. The material absorbs the light frequencies fed into it from LEDs and emits it again almost without any reflection losses. “The light and the colors appear even more intense. PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent even turns ultraviolet light, which is invisible to the human eye, into a visible blue shade. It is a truly magical effect that cannot be created using glass,” emphasizes FUTURETRO.

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