“I always see the Opera House as shells. People call them sails but I don’t see sails at all. To me it looks like a very organic, repetitive structure. That’s what I love about nature, the repetition” he says. “By repeating the same thing something simple becomes really complex.”
Ben Marshall, the Head of Contemporary Music at Sydney Opera House and the festival curator for Vivid LIVE, first encountered Bolland’s work in the early 2000s: Marshall was working part-time promoting nightclubs while Bolland did the artwork for flyers. He predicts Bolland will do even bigger things after Lighting the Sails.
“His capacity to very closely observe the world, seeing all the awe and wonder in the tiny details, has always impressed me," Marshall says. "The Opera House is the perfect commission for him – the organic, architectural and mechanistic all combining – and the work that’s resulted is just breathtaking.”
A particular obsession for Bolland as he created Audio Creatures has been a book called Micrographia, published in 1665 and filled with drawings showing microscopic details of insects, animals, minerals and plants. Its creator, Robert Hooke, had invented the first microscope that resembled the modern instrument. Hooke’s drawings of fly eyes and the details of bird feathers, according to a foreword in a recent reproduction, set the standard for 200 years.
“It’s mind-blowing,” says Bolland of Hooke's hyper-detailed drawings, one of many books that fill the shelves of his studio in Sydney's Chippendale, along with films, artworks and odds and ends. There are nautilus shells – a recurring theme of his work – and seed pods that get more and more more intriguing the closer you look. There’s also a miniature sculpture of the Opera House.
40-year old Bolland has worked as a filmmaker and director, but also as a writer, cinematographer, 3D artist, concept designer, graphic designer and a musician. In all of these roles he’s self-taught.
Born in New Zealand, he left school when he was just 14 to play in bands. His first work as a director was making a music video for his teenage friends, giving him an early taste for crafting stories for the screen.
For a decade he was the owner and director of a creative studio called Umeric. It was here that he conceived HBO’s Unexpected campaign, and created an award-winning campaign called ‘Genetically Modified HD’ for MTV that featured a giant nautilus floating in gritty urban locations and, seemingly, laying eggs like a upending bag of marbles. It saw Boland named as a finalist at the Shots New Director Award in 2011.