Artist Karen Tang drew on inspiration from science fiction – spanning botany, biology and extra-terrestrial landscapes - for Synapsid: a globular form that represented constant change and metamorphosis; referencing the Golden Age of Sci-Fi movies relevant to the artworks site specific locations.

Project Details

Artist: Karen Tang
Category: Temporary
Date: 2015
Location: View on our Public Art Map (desktop and tablet; requires Google sign-in) Find past location on a map
Commissioner: Vitrine Gallery, London Producers: KARST Partners: Plymouth City Council

Synapsid was developed through a series of models made with materials that ranged from modelling clay, to foam and plywood to work out the structural connections. The final sculpture was created from carved Styrofoam to retain the appearance of a softly moulded structure; with a hard sheath of epoxy and fibreglass. These exterior materials are used in surfboard and boat construction, echoing the focus on rivers and the sea featured in the film that inspired the piece: the 1959 feature ‘The Giant Behemoth’.

This sci-fi tale has links to Bermondsey Square, London, where Synapsid was first shown and to Plymouth. The original script intended to feature a giant blob of radioactive material. In the final version, however, a mutated dinosaur menaces the UK’s coastline. One of the characters in the film insists he must go to Plymouth to track the source of radiation in fish off the coastline that he believes is related to this ‘Behemoth’ creature. He spots a serpent-like beast in his binoculars whilst scouting the coast of Plymouth in a fishing boat.

Rather than being perceived from one singular viewpoint, the understanding of the sculpture developed depending on the viewer's viewpoint and distance. This allowed for multiple interpretations, experiences and a curiosity for the materials. It was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from art audiences and the general public.

About the Artist

Karen Tang exhibits internationally in galleries and the public realm. The Vitrine gallery exhibited her sculpture ‘Synapsid’ for the first public sculpture commission ‘Sculpture at Bermondsey Square’.

Her sculptures offer viewers the experience of surprising structural and material combinations, with unexpected forms that reference science, sci-fi, architecture and city life. A variety of making processes are central in Tang’s practice, including epoxy ‘glassing’, carving, modelling, painted or powder-coated metal.