Len Lye (1901-1980) was a pioneer of kinetic sculpture and experimental filmmaking and one of New Zealand’s most renowned modernist artists. Always fascinated by light, colour and movement, Len stood out from his peers with his interest in drawing from life and in capturing the energy of his subject. It was whilst walking in Wellington that Len came to one of his most formative insights – if there was such a thing as composing music, there could be such a thing as composing motion.
In London in the late 1920s Len developed new filmmaking techniques and was one of the first to make movies by drawing and scratching designs directly on to film. This inspired method gave new meaning to animation. In 1944 he moved to New York where he contributed to experimental filmmaking and influenced the abstract expressionists and avant-garde animators for more than 50 years.
In 1992 he was posthumously included in ‘Territorium Artis’ at the National Museum of Modern Art in Bonn, Germany. Here he was placed alongside Picasso, Duchamp and Brancusi as one of the 100 great artists of the 20th century.
Lye wanted to build giant versions of his sculptures in open landscapes, to 'pay homage to the energies of nature', leaving detailed plans. Today, the Len Lye Foundation is building those works in New Zealand and Wellington is proud to have Lye’s ‘Water Whirler’ on the foreshore of Frank Kitts Park.