Len Lye and his seven slithering snakes sculptures

Written by Sara Black

Len Lye, the creative behind a prolific amount of experimental films and kinetic sculpture, goes predator for his latest Govett-Brewster exhibition.

Len Lye, born 1901, was a New Zealand multi-disciplinary artist whose obsession with motion and the language of art propelled him on a journey of film making and, eventually, he found himself (thanks to his coal-trimming-on-a-steam-ship gig) in 1920s London.

Lye quickly made friends in modernist circles and had dalliances with the Seven & Five Society and Footprint Studios. After many years working on experimental films, producing wartime information films, and writing theories, letters and poems, Lye switched up his focus and side-stepped into designing kinetic sculpture.

Come 1977, after many internationally acclaimed exhibitions, he was back in his motherland to oversee the first New Zealand exhibition of his art at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and shortly before his passing in 1980, Lye (and supporters) established the Len Lye Foundation to which he gave his works. And so, wonderfully, the gallery is the repository for much of his works.

Sky Snakes, making their world premiere at the Govett-Brewster All Gallery/Len Lye Centre, are a series of seven sculptures gracefully hanging from a dark unknown above. An electric motor drives each Sky Snake, rotating a spinning ball and 4.5m metre chain at an impressive speed of 190 revolutions per minute, creating a multitude of mesmerising wave patterns.

Go see: govettbrewster.com

len lye slithering snakes
Photography: Bryan James

Related Stories