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Vinyl meets Victorian London to become Op Art


How do you turn an art school into a work of art? You call in the Swiss artist Felice Varini, give him a vast amount of weatherproof silver adhesive vinyl, and let him do his thing. And that's why the surfaces of the buildings at Central St Martins new campus at Granary Square, King's Cross, are glinting with a 542-metre- long artwork.

Varini works in the Op Art tradition, creating site-specific anamorphic imagery – which means that it looks jumbled from every viewing position, until you're looking at it from one specific point. The Granary Square artwork resembles fragmented military "dazzle" camouflage across the big 19th-century brick facades, but resolves into a continuous angular form if you stand dead centre. One could ramble on about the surreality of it all, or wonder whether it is a crass insult to historic urban fabric. But it's not quite surreal and, in any case, the Victorians were pretty outré in their polychromatic approach to surfaces. Varini's idea certainly didn't alarm the Relay arts programme of the King's Cross Central Ltd Partnership, which sponsored the artwork.

What's fascinating about the artwork, titled Across the Buildings, is how it was created. The image of the design was projected across the buildings at night; Varini's team, using cherry-picker lifts, physically traced around the edges of the shapes with chinagraph pencils; cut-to-shape stencils were created, followed by matching sheets of vinyl, which were then bonded to the facades.