London sculptor Ivan Black’s Nebula Hive brings, appropriately enough, a circularity to the MAD Gallery, the offshoot of MB&F watches that showcases an ever-changing array of mechanical art. 

A kinetic work, Nebula Hive breathes under timed impulses in much the same way as the balance spring in a watch does. In effect, it is a mesmerising helix of light where spines swing through lazy arcs, describing shifting geometries. Yet it is deceptively simple in concept. At the centre is a ‘spine’ of linked chains from which vertebrae are suspended, each with a LED at its tip. A pulse of energy from the integrated motor is enough to set the system into motion and each pulse radiates through the sculpture, which twists, working as a spring and absorbing the kinetic energy before unwinding and releasing, eventually settling back to its rest-state.

The lights form patterns that constantly shift as each layer takes or gives its energy to its neighbours, an effect that’s achieved with an incredible precision thanks to the care with which Black and his team designed and produced the sculptures – each one takes around 12 weeks involving some 2,000 components machined from brass and then nickel-plated.

The sculpture can be controlled by a proprietary iOS app that can vary luminosity, speed, direction, and patterns of rotation with the swipe of a finger, a feature that Ink, the lighting design studio Black co-founded, apply across their work.

Nebula Hive represents some of a completed circle for Black as well, his emergence as a sculptor being strongly influenced by his parents: his mother being a kinetic artist while his father was a dealer in Persian carpets. Unsurprisingly Black emerged from childhood with a fascination for moving, repeating patterns.

‘I first became interested in making sculptures in my early teens and almost immediately began to incorporate moving elements; as an inherent problem-solver I took pleasure in setting myself challenges.’