Emily Floyd’s ‘Steiner rainbow’

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Peter McKay, Curator, Contemporary Australian Art discusses Emily Floyd’s ‘Steiner rainbow’ 2006.

As a spectrum of vibrant colour ‘Steiner rainbow’ has considerable presence in space, unlike the natural phenomenon it recalls. Rainbows are cultural symbols often associated with alternative political movements, signifying utopian ideals and a desire to do things differently.

With this in mind, Floyd took something humble — a popular wooden children’s toy — and scaled it up to adult height. The toy she references was first manufactured in the 1970s, inspired by the educational ideas of Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), in whose name the Steiner school movement continues today. The stacking toy is designed to encourage open—ended play and Floyd’s interest is in its modular character: a child can use the coloured components as building blocks, or to model worlds of their own invention.

Like the toy, this sculpture comes with an instruction that is suggestive rather than didactic: the work can be ‘played with’ (exhibited) in a variety of ways. Floyd suggests this is similar to the way artists work to imaginatively envision the world — as a different place.

Emily Floyd, Australia b.1972 / Steiner rainbow 2006 / Two-part epoxy paint on MDF / Nine parts / Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist