White Noise
Made in White City

The Making of Gold Zero

We were waiting for the sun to come up. Outside on the car park roof, the Gold Zero was complete, and men with warm jackets and thermos flasks of coffee were also waiting. Yesterday, artist Corrie Baldauf and her team had painted the work, and today we would film it from the sky with a drone.

PHOTOS - Jack Johnstone
WORDS - Liz Ann Bennett
09.12.2016

While the sun idled below the horizon, Corrie and I searched for a sheltered spot to talk about the piece. She had barely slept all night, she confessed, worrying that rain could wash the water-based paint away. But the dry night had left it untouched.

Gold Zero shares a roof with Nordic dining pop-up, Pergola on the Roof. It was closed and deserted, smelling sweetly of fir trees and the wood chip that covered the floor. Best of all, it was warm. So we slipped inside and picked a table. 

Gold Zero is finished. That's exciting!

It's pretty amazing when you come around the corner of the ramp, up to the sky space. When's the sun's up a little bit more we'll have to try that. 

Let's talk about how you came up with the idea. You and I were looking down at the car park and then we had the moment when we saw the curve of the ramp. 

That zero form lit up for me. I saw that repeat shape of the ramp mirroring onto the roof. In a way that was enough for me. I had it in my head that it might not be possible to do everything in that short amount of time.

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

Because your residency at Griffin Gallery ends in, what, three or four days?

I'm going back to Detroit on the first; this is the grand finale. This area of London still has space, and I'm very attracted to those kinds of spaces. There's a lot of potential energy there. So I think of the ramp as a verb, potential energy meeting with that zero form and gold. Because the zero is gold, it meets two pretty loaded symbols: a gold and a zero. The piece asks people to think about their surroundings, and hopefully see that there is never nothing. There is potential in everything. 

I like the idea of the contrast between the concepts of gold and zero. They're not quite opposites, but they're pulling in different directions. How does this tie in to your earlier work, the wingspan portraits?

The wingspan circle starts from Vitruvian man. What I figured out is that there's actually two circles. When you're using your arms to draw, your shoulders become the centre points. Two circles actually make an oval form, and there's more motion in that shape I think. To link that to this Gold Zero project, the ramp is the verb or the action space of the car park. If you imagine arms making that gesture, it's a similar idea: the vehicles that have driven on that ramp. It's these curved forms that are being created by humans within architectural spaces, and both aim to feature people in conversations.

What do you mean by “they aim to feature people in conversations”?

With the wingspan circles, I like to have people take photographs with them, so they're trying out that victorious wingspan triumphant stance.

We talked before about how it feels strange to lift your hands above your head. It's a really dominant gesture.

Yes! You're not in a submissive or passive pose. By doing that people feel more welcome to speak about the art, even they're if not necessarily familiar with talking about art. 

Because they're interacting with it, not just standing and looking?

Yes.

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold ZeroAbove: artist Corrie Baldauf. Below: Mathew Gibson, residency coordinator at Griffin Gallery.

Tell me about the technical aspect of this. You and Mathew Gibson from Griffin Gallery were worried about the ridges in the concrete, that there wasn't going to be enough paint. 

That part was wild. The part I was most concerned about was accomplishing the curves on the roof. We had never drawn something on that scale, so we created a paper form of the ramp, and then flipped that.

And that worked? That must have taken ages to make out of paper. 

That part was so epic. It felt like we were on a boat, it was so windy. It was the two of us with this paper sail, unrolling it foot by foot and weighting it down to add to it, and then you have to re-roll it to flip it over. And then the paint is water-based paint. I've painted something on this scale, but that was oil-based, so that was where we had to estimate. That was really a concern. At the Liquitex lab for the last couple of weeks every person I see says, “Are you sure you have enough paint? Are you sure you should have got the heavy body paint? We kinda think you should have got the soft body paint. Do you have the right rollers?”

What's the difference between heavy body and soft body? 

Heavy body is the most concentrated form. When everyone saw it in the containers, they were comparing it to custard. It looked edible.

I saw a video of it pouring on Instagram. It's so slow, like thick honey.

It's incredible. It has polymer in it and mica.

I like the idea of getting the paint out of its normal environment and into an environment where you've got all these twigs and dirt, and then it's going to go onto a surface that it's not designed for. 

It's a good symbol of a very basic thing: whenever you can, work in a space that's outside of your office. Gold Zero is truly outside all of our studios and offices, and it isn't traditional so it won't last.

I quite like that it won't last, that it's going to fade gradually.

I feel really good about that!

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

You'll be back in your home town, Detroit, in a few days. Could you reflect on the contrasts with White City, now that you're at the end of your three months here? 

I'm really curious to see what Detroit's like when I go back, because really big changes are happening there. The area that I'm living in, a half mile outside the centre, has changed so quickly and so I'll be curious to compare.

You think even in just three months, you will notice change?

I know for a fact. In the three months before I left, there were so many visible signs of commerce coming into that area. There are billboards now that aren't hand-painted, over the sides of buildings that were just the beautiful worn signage of old businesses. I don't know if I've ever observed the beginning of that type of urban environment, to really see the idea of an urban prairie. It's talked about so much in Detroit, but to really see that now the prairie is being repopulated and fast. 

And to bring it back to White City, I think there are more structures and institutions involved in this area. There's a little bit more hoop-jumping, a little more close observation, a little less turning the other way. But at the same time there's a lot of freedom. What does that freedom create? My hope is that some of that vision of freedom still remains. What we did here is temporary, but my hope is that in 15 years we could look at a view of White City, or we could look at a view of Detroit, and there might be little moments of that still there. 

So that we'll have a had a permanent impact, even though the Zero is temporary?

Right. Maybe that's a human desire, to exist beyond your body life span.

See more of Corrie Baldauf's work here. Gold Zero is collaboration with Griffin Gallery and White Noise, and sponsored by Liquitex. Photos are by Jack Johnstone.

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

Corrie Baldauf White City Gold Zero

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