Artist Karen Tang draws inspiration from science fiction – spanning botany, biology and extra-terrestrial landscapes. Synapsid’s globular form represents constant change and metamorphosis; referencing the Golden Age of Sci-Fi movies relevant to the artworks site specific locations.

Photo courtesy of Rod Gonzalez

Artist: Karen Tang
Category: Temporary
Date: 2015
Location: View on our Public Art Map [desktop and tablet; requires Google sign-in]
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Commissioner: Vitrine Gallery, London
Producers: KARST
Supporters: Plymouth City Council

Project Description

Synapsid was developed through a series of models with changing materials from modelling clay, moving into foam and plywood to work out the structural connections. The final sculpture is carved Styrofoam to retain the appearance of a softly moulded structure; with a hard sheath of epoxy and fibreglass. These exterior materials are used in surfboard and boat construction, echoing the focus on rivers and the sea featured in the film that inspired the piece: the 1959 feature ‘The Giant Behemoth’

This Sci-Fi tale has links to Bermondsey Square, London, where Synapsid was first shown and to Plymouth. The original script intended to feature a giant blob of radioactive material; however in the final version a mutated dinosaur menaces the UK’s coastline. One of the characters in the film insists he must go to Plymouth to track the source of radiation in fish off the coastline that he believes is related to this ‘Behemoth’ creature. He spots a serpent like beast in his binoculars whilst scouting the coast of Plymouth in a fishing boat.

The sculpture cannot be perceived from one singular viewpoint; the understanding of the piece develops depending on your viewpoint and distance. This allows for multiple interpretations, experiences and a curiosity for the materials. It has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from both art audiences and general public alike when exhibited.

Photo courtesy of Rod Gonzalez


About the Artist

Karen Tang exhibits internationally in galleries and the public realm. The Vitrine gallery exhibited her sculpture ‘Synapsid’ for the first public sculpture commission ‘Sculpture at Bermondsey Square’.

Her sculptures offer viewers the experience of surprising structural and material combinations, with unexpected forms that reference science, sci-fi, architecture and city life. A variety of making processes are central in Tang’s practice, including epoxy ‘glassing’, carving, modelling, painted or powder-coated metal.

Related links

Find our more about the work on Karen Tang’s website. (Accessed 6 September 2018)

Read more on Synapsid exhibition on the KARST website. (Accessed 5 September 2018)