While some may think that light – whether in the form of a light bulb, neon, fluorescent tube or an LED – is a practical alternative to sitting in the dark, light artists around the world see it as a dramatic and powerful medium.
Some say that the power of light and the drama it can create is basic; its immediate physical, optical quality can completely grab your attention.
According to ARTnews the interplay of dark and light has been a theme running from Greek and Roman sculpture to Renaissance painting to experimental film. As technology advanced from the electric light bulb to the computer monitor, artists have been experimenting with actual light as material and subject.
The 1960s saw a high point in activity, with artists creating sculptures and environments out of diffuse light or radiant fluorescent and neon tubing. Today, new light artists are looking beyond their forerunners and taking light in new directions.
Transforming the Harbour City
Now in its fourth year, the Vivid Sydney Festival is the largest celebration of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere. The 2012 festival included more than 60 interactive and immersive light installations. The light projection on the Sydney Opera House, created by the German design company Urbanscreen, looked as if its roof had crumbled to the ground.
Festival of Light
This year’s Perth International Arts festival held in late February and early March, included a work by American light artist Jim Campbell that explored the concept of luminosity.
According to Art Guide Australia, Campbell’s Scattered Light – a 24-metre-long, 6-metre-high and 5-metre-deep installation – at first appears to be a mass of old-school light bulbs. However, Campbell’s work is in fact very high-tech. Each of the 1600 globes in the work has been retrofitted with LEDs that are controlled by a central computer so that the entire constellation becomes a lo-fi, three-dimensional display screen.
This work previously appearing in New York’s Madison Square Park in New York and Campbell projected imagery of commuters walking at nearby Grand Central Station. “It’s essentially 1600 pixels that create an image, but the image has been kind of blown [or] stretched apart,” Campbell said.
Field of Light
Light artist, Bruce Munro has produced some of the world’s most attention grabbing light installations in public gardens and on museum lawns. At a project at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, US, Munro created a surreal landscape consisting of glowing orbs connected by a series of fibre optic roots. Bearing a striking resemblance to alien plant life, the installation included 20,000 individual orbs along a central garden path.