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The Guardian 1

Melbourne-based artist Joe Blanck is a huge fan of expanded polyethylene sheets (EPE sheets) supplied by Foamex after using them to craft a large-scale art installation for last year’s White Night Festival in Melbourne.

Joe used Foamex EPE sheets to create The Guardian, a large (10m x 4.5m) creature reminiscent of a giant lion, which he calls his, “largest and most ambitious creature to date”. Impressive in both size and intricate detail, The Guardian was a showstopper at White Night Melbourne 2019.

Festival organisers approached Joe with a very open brief. They wanted the wow factor and it had to be bigger and better than the previous creature called The Messenger, featured in the 2018 White Night Festival.

“I actually discovered EPE foam sheets a few years ago when I unwrapped an electronics product that was packaged in it,” he explains. “It appeared to be lightweight, flexible, and strong.

“For these types of large-scale puppets like The Guardian we’d previously used fibreglass, which is heavy, hard to work with, and gives off nasty chemicals.”

Foamex EPE foam sheets are lightweight

Foamex’s EPE foam sheets are lightweight, semi-rigid and are most commonly used in packaging for impact and shock absorption, vibration dampening, and surface protection. They are also ideal for theatre props and art installations. EPE foam is easily shaped, formed, and cut, and is dust-free, water-resistant, non-toxic, and non-abrasive, making it completely safe to work with. Plus, it is 100 per cent recyclable.

“Foamex’s EPE sheets are beautiful for an artist to use. They cut easily and join effortlessly.”

 - Joe Blanck, Melbourne artist.

The translucent properties of EPE foam

“We were also very excited about using EPE foam sheets because of their translucence,” Joe adds. “Many of our installations like The Guardian are used at night, so being able to backlight them effectively is critical. In The Guardian puppet, we used 30 LED floodlights and thousands of small LEDs.

“EPE foam diffuses the light, giving it an ethereal quality, which was ideal for this project. When we used to use fibreglass, we’d get ‘hot spots’ of light. We used giant, crystal-like shards to cover the creature's head and body which glowed and changed colour as it moved through its environment.

“Foamex’s EPE sheets are beautiful for an artist to use. They cut easily and join effortlessly with a hot glue gun which is really important for such a large installation,” said Joe.

The Guardian 2

The Guardian praised by White Night Festival attendees

“The Guardian was a huge project for us in several ways. It took four months to build and measured 10 metres long and 4.5 metres high and was operated by eight puppeteers. It was constructed with an engineered aluminium framework supported by a low-base chassis system which allows for slow and purposeful movements,” added Joe.

Joe’s business, A Blanck Canvas, which specialises in large-scale puppets and art installations, received plenty of praise for The Guardian from both the client and festival goers.

“One of the evenings of the festival I hung around in the background and was treated to many ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’. There were even people crying when they saw it, which is the ultimate feedback for an artist,” concluded Joe.

How are EPE sheets manufactured?

EPE starts as raw material (Polyethylene resins made from HCFC & CFC free gasses), which are then manufactured into sheets using a process that combines steam, heat, and pressure. Sheets are cut into various sizes and lengths depending on the needs of the client. All offcuts are either recycled or donated to the Arts by Foamex.

EPE sheets are also commonly used in retail for visual merchandising and window displays because of its versatility. And that’s just one of many unusual ways to use Foamex products.

Interested in learning more about how Foamex can supply EPE foam sheets for your next project? Contact your local Foamex sales office to discuss your requirements. 

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