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Blackout Gets Artistic with Sky TV's Portrait Competition

Sky Arts' UK - Blackout’s team designed a custom-built touring truss structure for the firstseries of ‘Sky Art’s Portrait Artist of the Year’ competition, due on screens this autumn. The reality TV show visited four locations across the UK – London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Dublin – with more than 2,000 entrants battling out to win the title.  The winner will see their work displayed in the National Portrait Gallery and awarded a £10,000 commission to produce a portrait of award-winning author Hilary Mantel.

More details from Blackout (www.blackout-ltd.com):

After whittling the entrants down based on the portrait they submitted, 21 finalists per region were invited to each city and given four hours to paint a celebrity, who posed live. Called in by Papilo Production Management’s Kate Wright and Lisa Shenton, Blackout was tasked with turning TV producers StoryVault Films’ brief into reality.  

A cost-effective, easy-to-install solution was required which allowed the three celebrities to sit simultaneously, gave clear sightlines and access for film crews, and provided a safe route and easy viewing for the public who were invited to watch as the artists put brushes to canvas.

Blackout’s CAD department designed a structure that was quick and simple to install – vital for a touring production – and was easily adaptable to suit the size and requirements of each venue, which included London’s Trafalgar Square, City Hall in Cardiff, Royal Dublin Society and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Chris Brain, Blackout’s installation director, comments, “Working to StoryVault and Papilo’s brief we designed a structure which incorporated a 12m diameter central truss circle split into thirds, with a celebrity being painted in each section. The truss circle included cross sections to hang broadcast lighting, and just four supporting legs to ensure clear sightlines for crew and contestants. Tab track around the outer edge was used to hang white voile to help define the three areas.”

The main structure stayed the same for each event, with supporting structures being created for each location to hang lighting above displays of art completed by the chosen finalists in each city.

Papilo was first approached by Storyvault in April to produce the set, which was designed by Bruce French. Kate Wright comments,  “As well as the main artists’ area, StoryVault films wanted to create a ‘festival’ feel with different activities happening throughout the venues for families and local people to get involved with. This was an interesting challenge, as each venue was very different and we needed to ensure the main performance area remained quiet for the filming. The tour was a huge success.”


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