The Art of Mystery

My love of mysteries goes right back to childhood when I first discovered Enid Blyton books about The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and, my personal favourite: The Barney & Miranda Mysteries – what could be more exotic than a boy with a pet monkey! Soon, I progressed to more grown-up mystery stories such as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and R. L. Stephenson’s Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

Nowadays, I admire the writing of authors like Harlan Coben, Lynwood Barclay, Robert Goddard and Kate Atkinson, all of whom are masters of taking apparently unrelated strands and strange coincidences and weaving them together into an imaginative and wholly satisfying conclusion. It’s the care and attention to detail that I most respect.

I was reminded of this while walking around Cardiff Bay Barrage on a rare sunny day last week. There’s a gloriously mysterious piece of anamorphic art by the Swiss artist Felice Varini called ‘3 Ellipses for 3 Locks’ – his first work in the UK.

Visitors to the barrage might first notice baffling splotches of apparently random yellow paint daubed on the floor, railings, side walls and working parts of the locks. There’s even a great swathe of yellow on the harbour wall. Varini used photographic and projection techniques to measure precisely where each area of paint had to be placed and employed a team of mountaineers to reach the more difficult areas (note all that attention to detail – one small misplacement would have ruined the project). The work was completed between 11th and 25th March 2007. There’s only one vantage point on the barrage where the mystery can be solved and the lucky viewer that discovers it will be rewarded with the glorious sight of the 3 golden ellipses adorning the locks – just one step away in any direction and you can watch the mystery unravel before your eyes like a giant puzzle.

Oh to have the vision and ingenuity to create such masterpieces!

This art can only truly be appreciated by a visit but for those who can’t get to Cardiff here’s a photo montage.


To see more of Varini’s work visit

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