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Butterflies Unveiled at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station

Butterflies Unveiled at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station

The City of Surrey, in partnership with TransLink, is pleased to announce Thomas Nelles as the winner of an open call to artist to create a temporary mural to surround the construction hoarding of the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station while TransLink upgrades the station. His two-part artwork titled Chrysalis and Butterfly Locomotion; Camouflaged are now installed and will be on display throughout the construction period. Chrysalis is attached above the fencing surrounding the construction site and Butterfly Locomotion; Camouflaged covers the pedestrian walkway. Thomas Nelles will be giving an artist talk on Tuesday, October 24 at 7pm at City Centre Library (10350 University Drive). The event is free.

The theme chosen to inspire artists for their concepts was “Connecting People, Connecting Places.” Nelles’s first mural is named for the stage in which a caterpillar sheds its cocoon and transforms into a butterfly. Butterflies have long been recognized as a metaphor for transformation. In Chrysalis, Nelles uses this imagery to symbolize the City’s transformation from its agricultural past to its urban present and its goals for a sustainable future.

Not as widely known, butterflies have been at the forefront of what scientists call biomimicry – adapting nature’s solutions for innovative human devices. Tech companies are studying the way butterfly wings reflect light and produce iridescent colours so they can create a similar visual image effective on anti-counterfeiting devices. A butterfly wing’s iridescence, combined with its energy efficient structure, are inspiring new optical products such as coloured e-readers that would work in sunlight. Nelles’s digitally rendered design taps into this innovation and captures Surrey’s identity as one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities in the world and its evolution from growing food to growing knowledge.

Chrysalis also refers to the history of the SkyTrain and its relationship to the City’s growth. SkyTrain expansion into Surrey began in 1990 when the Scott Road Station was created. The other three stations were added in 1994. Each of the four butterflies represents both a stage in Surrey’s history and a SkyTrain station.

The butterflies overlay images of the first buildings in Surrey, including the original design of the Surrey Central Station that was sourced from archival photos. As the artwork wraps around the site, it signifies, from left to right, the City’s past, present, and future.

The mural is intended to enhance the experience of the station for both transit riders and residents. Chrysalis’s bright colours and dynamic imagery provide a warm welcome to Surrey, particularly during the winter months.

Nelles extends the butterfly concept to his second mural Butterfly Locomotion; Camouflaged. Here, their patterned wings are designed as if seen through a kaleidoscope. The ancient Greek word for kaleidoscope translates as “observation of beautiful forms.” The mural’s design of light, space, and complex patterning links it to this optical device. Printed onto a mesh fabric, the mural encourages viewers to see through it into the construction worksite. Its goal is to show change in a positive way, and its multiple variations of the butterfly speak to how every individual is part of Surrey’s growth.

About the Artist | Thomas Nelles grew up in Surrey and is a graduate of Sullivan Heights Secondary School where he studied with Marc Pellech. He is a 2016 graduate from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and has had a solo exhibition at the Newton Cultural Centre. Surrey residents may also be familiar with his large-scale digital mural, Cultural Synthesis, installed near The Grove in Newton Town Centre.

For more information about the Surrey Public Art Program |

About The Author

Surrey604 Staff

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.


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