A young girl can be seen standing alone at the end of the train station platform. Who’s she with? Is she travelling alone? Engrossed in her own world, she is still and focuses on the phone she carries. As a concerned member of the public approaches, her form appears to digitize and fragment into cubes. Is this some form of reverse augmented reality?

Maya is a sculpture which acts as a three-dimensional pixelated portrait. As with a heavily pixelated two dimensional image made of squares, from a distance the sculpture can be easily read. As the viewer gets closer the object appears to fragment into cubes.

The artwork was installed from 2013-2015 on platform 1 at Bristol Temple Meads train station.

Every occasion in our lives now seems to be documented with the plethora of cameras we carry around with us. Images are shared and distributed online for our family, friends and the public to see. Unsure of the implications of this life online, will photos of us remain on the internet forever? Or will they simply get lost and become anonymous in the billions of images we upload each year? With the permission of Luke’s daughter, this portrait raises some of these issues.

“From the age of 3 my daughter Maya could use an iPhone. For her the technology was like a pencil, just another everyday tool to be used. Born into this world, for her, the digital revolution and the speed of technological development is not yet apparent.” Says Luke.

This project has stemmed from Luke’s ongoing research of visual perception and optical illusion. The fact that he is colourblind has given him a natural interest in exploring “the edges of perception”.

Related links
Consider this artwork in relation to The New Aesthetic
Read about this optical illusion of ‘block masking’
Find out about the history of pixelation
Read about pixelation in crime imagery
Read an academic paper on pixelated face recognition


“I had the idea to create pixelated sculptures about 10 years ago. Back then I tried to make the artworks using cubes of painted wood, but the results were disappointing. The opportunity arose this year to make an artwork for Bristol Temple Quarter using more up to date technologies, which weren’t financially accessible a decade ago”.

To make this artwork Maya was scanned using an Xbox Kinect. Her head was scanned at the Machine Vision Laboratory (MVL) within the University of West of England. From there, the body scan was then pixelated into cubes known as voxels. Then the model was created from precisely (waterjet) cut, sheets of aluminium. Over 5,000 small, 12mm square coloured stickers were then printed and painstakingly fixed onto this aluminium surface.

Printing was completed at the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR), University of West of England where Luke was a Senior Research Fellow.


Maya is part of Bristol Temple Quarter commissions coordinated by WatershedKnowle West Media Centre and MAYK, with support from Bristol City Council and Arts Council Engand.

Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) University of West of England
Gary Atkinson at the UWE Machine Vision Laboratory (MVL)
CAD – Richard de Lancey – Nu Desine
Paul Muncaster and Joss Murray – technicians

Press Coverage
LA Times read
BBC news read
The Guardian read
Courrier International read
Co.Design read
Times Higher Educational read
ITV news read
BBC Indonesia read

Public Reaction
During the day, when there are many people around, she can blend into the crowd. At night though, she looks really vulnerable, out of place and alone. A train was even held up when the driver saw a vulnerable young girl standing at the end of the platform. Security were called but the problem was quickly resolved when staff explained that the girl was just a sculpture.

Maya became slightly wobbly, caused by dozens of people hugging the sculpture. Consequently, the artwork had to be rebolted to the ground.

A story from the station manager: “On my first day of work, a member of the public reported seeing a lone girl at the end of the platform. I reassured them, that I’d keep an eye on her. After 2&1/2 hrs of checking, I finally reported the girl to my boss, who suggested I went up to her to make sure she was ok! Needless to say, I was very embarrassed to find that Maya was in fact a statue rather than a lost girl!”

Story from a passenger: “There was little to distinguish the child from the people surrounding her but as I moved closer I watched the face become distorted and the body become a little boxy. This most amazing creation seems bewildering even up close. The man next to me was filming her from every position and I could see why; she looks different from all angles. It’s a strange sight to see this pixelated creature made from small cubes; as much beguiling as mesmerising. I hated to leave her.”