Art of the Engineering Spirit

20 May 2022

Recent PhD graduate Angus McGregor presents thesis work to undergraduate mechanical engineering students

  • LenLyePubAngusMcGregor

    published with the kind permission of the Len Lye Foundation

Angus Mcgregor, PhD, Mech Eng

Often upon graduation we don’t get a chance to witness the developments made from one of our alums. In this sense, we deeply appreciated it when recent PhD graduate Angus McGregor visited to speak in detail about his thesis work On the Design of Len Lye’s Harmonic Sculptures at the Maximum Feasible Size and showed the subsequent impact he has made within the Aotearoa New Zealand arts community.

Angus’ thesis years were heavily involved with the Len Lye Foundation, an organization dedicated to promote and preserve the artworks of New Zealand born kinetic artist Len Lye. Lye left behind plans to develop massive scale versions of his sculptures. It was from this connection that Angus set out to discover a way to scale some of these works to unprecedented dimensions while preserving the artistic integrity of the original artworks.

The presentation consisted of Angus giving a brief but thoughtful introduction to Len Lye, and segueing into an informational conversation helping to bridge the importance of his work with an audience of current UC undergrad Mechanical Engineering students.

As with most things in life, conceptualizing an idea is one thing, but bringing that reality to fruition is its own obstacle. Angus illustrated his sanguine approach to the challenges he faced in producing these works of art, a similar test all PhD students must address at one moment or another. It was an engaging enterprise for the audience to walk through the engineering concepts and simulations that needed addressing in order to scale a sculpture like Water Whirler to its current size as displayed in Wellington. 

Often the connection between art and engineering can be overlooked and thought of as incongruous, at least on its surface. However, the reality is these two fields are uniquely symbiotic and Angus managed to accentuate this relationship by linking core engineering principles to artistic manifestation.

Sometimes it can be daunting to convey the motivation of what drives an individual to work so diligently in their pursuit of a PhD, especially when you are talking about projects that are years in the making. Yet, throughout the presentation, Angus was able to transfer his inspiration and his appreciation of Len Lye while delivering what ultimately led him to develop these artworks honouring a great Kiwi artist.

We wish the best for Angus and his future endeavours. Perhaps the University of Canterbury will be graced with one of these pieces of art in the near future.

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