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Go Go Gorillas: Norfolk artist Kate Munro creates Bling Kong

By Martin Barber
BBC News, Norfolk

image captionSculptor Kate Munro said a number of "injuries" were sustained in the creation of Bling Kong

Creating a dazzling, mirrored and glass, life-sized gorilla for England's largest conservation art trail is not without its dangers, sculptor Kate Munro has revealed.

One of 53 Norfolk artists to have contributed to the 120-strong gorilla invasion throughout Norwich, Bling Kong, as the sculpture is named, glitters in a concrete jungle of brick and steel near the River Wensum - stop 32 on the eight-mile trail around the city.

"Mirror can cut, our hands were full of cuts and splinters," said Ms Munro, who spent more than 114 hours creating the 5ft (1.5m) tall sculpture.

"The pieces of mirror were donated, the glass was collected from friends and several of the wine bottles were salvaged from my father's 70th birthday party."

image captionKate Munro was helped by two friends to mirror the gorilla glass-fibre canvas

Munro's work is inspired by the French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle who created large scale mirrored mosaics.

"I love the effect of the mirror mosaic - how it can dissolve into its surroundings and become almost invisible, and then bounce light all over the place and glitter. I like the fact it's quite kitsch too, like a '70s disco ball."

"I hope people will like the fact that they can see themselves in little pieces on the shape of a gorilla, and hopefully think about how dependent these animals are on their surroundings."

The Go Go Gorillas commission is the second time Munro has produced a piece for a Norwich animal art trail.

In 2008 she created a mirror mosaic elephant which sold at the Go Elephant fundraising auction for £16,000, only one other piece sold for more.

Martin Green, from the Norfolk charity Break, who organised the trail, said: "We invited many artists to submit ideas. Sponsors then selected which designs would be created on the glass-fibre gorilla canvas.

"We commissioned Kate specifically to create a mirrored gorilla as we wanted to build on the auction success of her Go Elephant."

'Accessible' art

Munro said creating Bling Kong, situated on Gilders Way off Barrack Street, was a great opportunity.

"After the elephant I vowed never to do this again. But I had a bit of time and I like making work for public places - especially with an environmental angle," she said.

"The contours of the body were quite a challenge - the larger flatter areas are quick to do and can be done in larger pieces, but the underbelly and legs that needed much smaller pieces took a huge amount longer.

"I think events like this are a way for artist's to get their name out there - and it's a way to be able to raise the kind of money for charity that we may never be able to give otherwise.

image captionThe mirrored Go Elephant sold for £16,000 at charity auction

"I was absolutely amazed and delighted I had been able to help raise £16,000 with my Go Elephant for charity."

Each life-sized western lowland gorilla sculpture has cost local businesses £4,000 in sponsorship to cover the cost of the "canvas", the artists' time and materials.

The project will then raise money for Break and the Born Free Foundation, to help gorilla conservation in the Congo, from a charity auction of the pieces in October.

"I like the fact Go Go Gorillas is not really art in the serious sense," said Munro. "It's very accessible so people [in their thousands] seem very happy to embrace it."

The trail can be seen in Norwich until 7 September.

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