LIGHT : ART / ART INCORPORATING LIGHT
LIGHT ART Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton, the UK creative consultancy called Light Collective, talk about Light and Light Art; its inception, acceptance, propagation and relevance.
Guerrilla Lighting, Social Light Movement Workshop, Sclessin
Art incorporating light has its roots in the Material Paintings of Constructivism and Cubism of the 1920s. Their work introduced the use of steel, aluminium, plexiglass and mirror into artworks in order to refract and reflect light. This evolved with the merging of kinetic art and light in the 1930s pioneered by the likes of Laslo Maholy-Nagy. Through engaging with new materials and technology and new media such as film and photography, artists began to expand and form the genre which we now refer to as light art. This was a dramatic move away from art that had previously only depicted natural light and marked the change from representation of natural light to the actual use of electric light as an independent means for artistic images and material. The development of light art has co-existed with the advance of technical innovations and has evolved alongside the inventions of the tungsten lamp, neon, lasers, ultra-violet, electroluminescent and more recently LEDs. LED technology continues to develop rapidly in tandem with programmable technology that is easy to integrate into many other
materials and has therefore revolutionised the way that light is able to be used, providing an opportunity for a new sub-genre of interactive light art. Light Art has flourished into a popular and independent genre with 1960s artists like James Turrell, Dan Flavin and Nancy Holt becoming international successes and also household names. Art using light has proved itself to be a popular medium that is accessible for all types of people spanning all ages and across all cultures. Why is it something that everybody can easily engage with? “Everybody thinks they know what light is. I have spent my whole life trying to find out what light is and I still do not know.” — Albert Einstein The worship of light is woven into the whole of human existence. Light is as intertwined with our very being as is air. It controls our sleep patterns, our digestion, mood, productivity and our vision; Light is an elixir vitae, our bodies are calibrated to the oscillations of the sky and the patterns of luminous change.
Light has always had strong symbolic and mythical associations with the divine throughout the history of mankind and across many cultures. In secular terms, light represents power and wealth and economies can be measured on how much light is owned. Light generates activity and without it, economies and human beings suffer. The plethora of Light Festivals and the recent popularity of galleries hosting light based artworks are proving an opportunity for people to interact with light in an accessible format. Any work of art that uses light in some way allows the viewer or participant to take time to contemplate the wonder of light and the role it has in our lives. Human beings are essentially phototropic and are drawn to light like moths and can exercise this human need whenever they encounter Light Art. Light Art offers an opportunity to displace a memory of colour, participate in an experience of movement and light, allow time to be spent contemplating light and space or a moment to try and understand the raw impact of what light actually is. Long may it flourish…