British designer Es Devlin is revered in her field. Not only for the clients she has designed stages for — think Beyonce, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus — but for her ability to translate the core of an artists presence into a visually arresting and enlightening work of art. Yes, Es Devlin does more than design stages, she reaches into the core of those who she designs for and expertly creates powerful sets to communicate what she finds.
Es’ latest visual art was for The Weeknd’s stage at Coachella music festival. An impressive and impactful 30-foot-high gigantic cracked mask, the face was lit by ever-moving projection-mapped lighting. “I have been working with the idea of concert sculptures as ‘pop portraiture’: thinking about masks, makeup, enlarged film relay and how this communicates character: how intimacy can be achieved at a grand scale,” Es tells It’s Nice That.
The connection with the inner-workings of The Weeknd runs deeper than his lyrics and interests — Es fused her aforementioned ‘pop portraiture’ concept with Abel Tesfaye’s (aka The Weeknd) and his close XO collaborator Lamar Taylor’s interest in AfroFuturist iconography inspired by their recent work with Kendrick Lamar on Black Panther.
“The fusion of our trains of thought came in the form of a large scale projection mapped scarred mask,” Es explains. “Abel’s face was 3D scanned, the file was manipulated to achieve the linear striations that are common to certain schools of African masks. A negative mould was CNC cut by AES in California, and the positive laid over in fibreglass. TAIT provided the infrastructure to certify the structure would hold in desert level wind conditions – which are an ever-present possibility at Coachella.”