Work on Monday: “Ravi Palace” by Art Donovan

"Ravi Palace," a steampunk pendant device by Art Donovan.
"Ravi Palace," a steampunk pendant device by Art Donovan.

This is the second installment of Work on Monday, our weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Ravi Palace
Art Donovan (Southampton, born 1952)
Mahogany, brass, steel, spun filament fiberglass, glass, polycarbonate and dichroic material
7 x 2 feet, 2012

A large and striking “steampunk pendant device,” Art Donovan‘s “Ravi Palace” is a later work in the artist‘s series of functional sculptures created in the steampunk style, which he helped define. Though it features some of the hallmarks of steampunk— including brass elements, scientific dials and meters, and antique-style lightbulbs—this particular effort marks something of a departure from, and evolution of, his earlier pieces in the genre.

The steampunk aesthetic—which melds the look and feel of Victorian-era England with more futuristic and surreal technology—inspired Donovan to create many stylish and functional pieces. He has since curated several steampunk shows (including a major exhibition at Oxford in England) and authored The Art of Steampunk, a book about the subject. The genre has exploded in popularity over the last few years and been referenced in television shows, comic books, movies and other media.

Ravi Palace” is clearly Donovan‘s way of redefining or expanding upon steampunk following its entry into the pop zeitgeist. The piece plays with functioning technological elements, like many steampunk works, but the artist does not limit himself only to the antique copper, brass, wood and glass that comprise most creations in the genre. Instead he plays and experiments with new materials and embraces the do-it-yourself spirit, just as he and the other fathers of steampunk did when it began.

Among the new materials is the dichrotic polycarbonate, which splits light into separate wavelengths (or colors), and appears almost like bright-green arrow fletching along the lower right and left sides. Donovan uses incandescent, CFL and UV bulbs as jewel-like points of light to highlight various parts of the large, jet-black form. He then crowns “Ravi Palace” with a clear glass dome, filled with rotating “planets.”

This piece is the first, or among the first, of what Donovan (a lighting designer by trade) calls his Electro Futuristic designs. He continues to share inspiration with steampunk, but this new title fleshes out the roots of his inspiration. “Objects such as illuminated sculptures, be they functional or decorative, computer case mods, computer keyboards, digital camera mods, iPods, flash drives and gramophones could also be included in this category,” Donovan explains.

Another view of "Ravi Palace" by Art Donovan.
Another view of “Ravi Palace” by Art Donovan.
Control box for "Ravi Palace"
Control box for “Ravi Palace” by Art Donovan.
Crown section of "Ravi Palace" by Art Donovan
Crown section of “Ravi Palace” by Art Donovan.

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