Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 09:50 UK

Artist rounds up colour Cyclorama

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent


Preview of Sanford Wurmfeld's Cyclorama

An American artist is to unveil a giant "E-Cyclorama" as part of an exhibition in the Edinburgh Art festival, which begins on Thursday.

It may sound like a board game from the 70s - but the Cyclorama is actually a much older form of entertainment.

And for American artist Sanford Wurmfeld, it has become a lifetime's work.

For the last year, he has been working on an E-Cyclorama - a 21st Century version of the once popular 19th Century pastime.

The "E" stands for elliptical - the project itself is a giant painting on the inside of a huge cylinder.

Entering from beneath, the painting surrounds the viewer and then subtly changes colour as they are immersed in it.

It is similar in design to his first Cyclorama - unveiled in Edinburgh in 2004 - but the scale has grown.

The surface represents more than 700 sq ft of painting - that is even larger than David Hockney's recent work for Tate Britain, Bigger Trees.

Hugely popular

Wurmfeld said his inspiration was Baroque churches - for both the shape and the colour.

But it is also apt that it is Edinburgh where it will first be shown.

For it was here that Irishman Robert Barker created the first panorama in 1788.

It was, he said, the only way to get the entire view of the city from the top of Calton Hill into one painting.

He subsequently opened his own Cyclorama in Edinburgh.

The result inspired a tradition which was hugely popular in 19th Century Britain.

Wurmfeld has been working on the new project for a year

The Cyclorama comes from the Greek word "to circle" and "orama" which means to view and these huge circular or hexagonal constructions would have been familiar sights in cities across the country.

As the viewer stood in the centre of the painting, there would often be music or a narrator telling the story of the scene.

Hundreds were created - although only a handful survive today - mostly epic battle scenes.

And for many people, they were the forerunners of modern cinema entertainment.

Wurmfeld has been working on the new project for a year - and since the four canvasses were painted separately in New York and then shipped here for assembly, its unveiling will not just be the first time the artist has seen the E-Cyclorama, it will be the first time anyone has seen it.

The project - part of the Edinburgh Festival of Art - will be on display at Edinburgh College of Art from 24 July until 5 September.

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