skip to content | Accessibility Information

Light Research @ MMU

Fabulous Melbourne Lightworks

An array of diverse and stimulating works that use light are scattered across central Melbourne. First of all, I revisited the wonderful work of Yandell Walton, who has reconfigured hedancer-2r melancholic work featured on this site two years ago at the city’s  Abbotsford Convent. At a site called Testing Grounds, a space at which artists of all kinds can experiment and display prototypes, Yandell’s work was situated in a container. The skeletal iron structure of the ceiling of the convent’s laundry is redeployed to serve as the backdrop of two different projections: on one wall, a dancer is projected against a surface of white bricks found at the site; on another wall of transparent fibreglass, external lights and the vague outlines of  people from outside meld with the projected shadows of figures moving across the surface.shadows1

At the city’s famous National Gallery of Victoria, a different kind of work makes use of the light from outside. Leonard French’s 40 year old stained glass ceiling, one of the largest in the world, is a vibrant kaleidoscope of intense colour. Visitors are solicited to lie on one of the soft bean bags to gaze upwards at the glowing, multicoloured array above them. Extending the art first initiated by the craftsmen working in medieval cathedrals, French’s masterpiece underlines the extraordinary potency of sunlight reflected through coloured glass. stained-glass-roof

Finally, two very different neon works offer very different effects. Situated in another room of the NGV, Tracey Emin’s ‘The Passion of your Smile’ is a synthesis of the answers provided in a questionnaire that the artist sent to Hollywood actor, George Clooney Rendered so as to mimic Emin’s own handwriting, the neon text vibrantly captures a variety of impressions: glamour, romance, urgency.passion

Danae Velenza’s work is sited in a very different location: a side street just off Melbourne’s busy Bourke Street. Like Lost Children we Live our Unfinished Adventures is literally rendered on a wall by eight neon sculptures in shorthand. The neglected but ubiquitous form of writing deployed to rapidly pin down meaning is honoured by being situated here in the CBD, echoing the endeavours of the city’s admin workers over decades.shorthand

 

 

 

 

 

November 29th, 2016 - 05:00am

Neon Extravaganza in Blackpool

The current exhibition at Blackpool’s ever-interesting Grundy Gallery is The Charged Line, a riot of neon that comprises a survey of the multiple creative applications of this most prolific form of illuminated art. We have suggested before that neon evokes many symbolic associations, including the futuristic, nostalgic, seedy and commercial, and the works in the exhibition do trigger many resonances. It is difficult to do justice to the richness of the show so three examples must suffice.

green-pimpDavid Batchelor’s outlining of a encrusted, time-worn concrete mixer with garish green neon transforms a utilitarian object into a magical thing, highlighting its shapely form and drawing attention to its battered material form. Green Pimp, from 2006, also captures something of Blackpool itself in its combination of the earthy and the glamorous. It also reminds us of the labouring bodies and industrial machinery that typified the working worlds  of the places from which millions of tourists flocked to the resort in search of thrills and glitter .f-morellet

François Morellet’s three dimensional work, Triple X Neonly, occupies a corner of the gallery with six lines configured to form three cross-cutting X’s that conjure up the abject  areas of the city in which the sex industry prospers. Yet this work of geometric abstraction easily transcends these all-too apparent cultural references, providing an immersive work that bathes room and visitor alike in a warm red glow that dazzles and charms visual perception. More broadly, the work amply demonstrates how light art invariably radiates effects beyond the symbolic.kosooth

Joseph Kosooth, an early pioneer of the approach, joins other artists that feature in a room devoted to neon works that foreground language and text. His iconic work from 1965, Neon, blurs the distinction between an object and the word that represents it – since the word seems to be rendered in the very material that it describes.  However, what masquerades as a cool white illuminated form produced by neon is in fact filled with another gas, namely argon. Thus the sign does not in reality represent the word that it features.

The exhibition continues until January 7th  2017, and visitors are advised to include this masterful show in any outing to Blackpool Illuminations or a trip to sample the resort’s  many vernacular charms.

October 24th, 2016 - 20:37pm

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City , Monash Gallery of Art

Melissa Miles from Monash University, Melbourne has curated an exhibition, running at  Monash Gallery of Art until 1 March 2015: http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/164.

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City focuses on the special role of light in stimulating imagination in Australian photography, and for envisioning modern cities as places of dreams and wonder. As a technology of light and of modernity, photography proved an ideal medium for imaging Australian cities. Photographers including Harold Cazneaux, Max Dupain, David Moore, Olive Cotton and Mark Strizic, used their cameras to revel in the magic of sunlight and artificial illumination in cities, and drew upon different metaphors of light to represent their ambitions for Australian modernity or express disenchantment with its failings.

strizic-mark-flinders-lane_555

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Strizic, Flinders Lane, 1967, 1967 gelatin silver print; 37.0 x 37.0 cm,  Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection (donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, MGA 2008.110; courtesy of the Estate of Mark Strizic)

The early to mid twentieth century was a period of gradual change in Australian cities and photography alike. Australians did not experience modernisation as a dramatic revolution or a sudden wave of change, as it was experienced in parts of Europe. Mass-production manufacturing industries were not a significant part of the Australian economy until after the Second World War, and skyscrapers did not reshape the city skyline until the early 1960s. Such European and American conceptions of modernity as a dramatic sense of the new displacing the old, were experienced in Australia as a kind of expectation or immanence rather than a sudden shift.

 

duapin-max-_mosman-bay-at-dusk__555

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Dupain, Mosman Bay at dusk, 1937, gelatin silver print, 49.6 x 32.6 cm, Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection (donated by James Mollison AO through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, MGA 2008.006)

This sense of immanence and gradual change is reflected in the diversity of photographic styles used to represent cities, from the hazy light and fuzzy effects associated with Pictorialist photography to the crisp sharp lines of modernism. During the 1930s and 40s, members of an older generation of Australian photographers, including the Pictorialists Cazneaux and George Morris, were responding to their urban experiences alongside younger generations linked to modernist and new documentary practices, such as Dupain and Cotton. The exhibition reveals how photographers utilized light, shadow and artificial illumination to enrich and enliven their imagery in ways that often transcended neat stylistic categories.

Melissa has a related book coming out next year, The Language of Light and Dark: Light and Place in Australian Photography: http://www.mqup.ca/language-of-light-and-dark–the-products-9780773545502.php

December 11th, 2014 - 13:24pm

The power of daylight: Spencer Finch and David Claerbout

Besides those artists who use artificial illumination in their art, it is also interesting to identify those drawn towards the daylight, like James Turrell. http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/james-turrells-wonderful-skyspace-kielder-forest-northumbria.  Two artists whose shows I have recently seen are Spencer Finch and David Claerbout, both inspired by sunlight and its qualities. Spencer Finch recently exhibited at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, a seaside location in Kent, England, which inspired the great JMW Turner to paint its ever-changing skies. Indeed, the huge window on the seaward side of the gallery allows visitors to focus on these dynamic transitions themselves. Finch is fascinated by the interplay between light, colour and perception, and his work celebrates the ways in which colour continuously changes according to the light that falls on it. http://www.turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/spencer-finch  Amongst the works in Margate was Passing Cloud (After Constable) (2014), a sculpture, made out of translucent fabric suspended from the ceiling that alters in transparency and opacity according to the light that fills the space from outside.

spencer finch1

In Back to Kansas (2013), Finch has replicated colours from scenes in The Wizard of Oz in a grid of painted squares that change their hue in response to the varying daylight, and ultimately to the whites, greys and blacks of twilight, revealing the dynamism of colours and our changing perceptions of them under different luminosities. Thank You Fog (2009) consists of 60 photographs arranged in a line at head height that frame exactly the same forest scene. Black to start with, the trees emerge periodically through gloom and fog and under changing light conditions, so we get a sense of how this scene changes from moment to moment

David Claerbout1In a different vein is David Claerbout’s The Quiet Shore (2011), recently shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of this year’s Sydney Biennale http://davidclaerbout.com/#The-Quiet-Shore-2011. The work is a 36-minute black-and-white film shot on the coast of Brittany, France, consisting of a sequence of still photographs. It includes numerous, luminous images of scenes of the smooth, wet, mirror-like surface of the beach. Like Finch, Claerbout celebrates the very distinctive forms of light that bestow distinctive qualities on places. But unlike the endless transformation conjured by Finch, he focuses on a particular time, on the stillness of the silvery water that produced such luminous effects towards the day’s end. The overwhelming beauty of this gleaming luminosity was intensified by the highly polished floor of the gallery room in which it was installed, doubling its power.

David Claerbout3

November 26th, 2014 - 13:34pm

Gavin Turk’s Neon Art at the Bowes Museum

gavin  Turk LobsterOn the night of the 24th January, with other fellows of the Institute for Advanced Study, I visited the Bowes Museum, the fantastic 19th century building rendered in the likeness of a French château, in the North Yorkshire town of Barnard Castle, to enjoy the opening of a fabulous exhibition devised by Gavin Turk. http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/VisitUs/WhatsOn/GavinTurkNeons.aspx?gclid=CNjXr8TgmbwCFZShtAod3H0AnwGavin Turk NailGavin Turk Candle

Bringing together all of his neon works made between 1995 and 2014, these pieces resonate with iconic works by old and modern masters, with popular culture and with themes explored in Turk’s earlier work. Installations include an animated lit match, a large egg, a banana, the radiating vision from a single eye, the Greek letter Phi, a star, an iron cross, a lobster, a candle and three doors in the middle of each wall, matching the one viewers enter. These are accompanied by a work on the outside of the building, Seven Billion Two Hundred and One Million Nine Hundred and Sixty-Four Thousand and Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight (also the title of the show), a number intended to capture the median human population of the earth at the time of the exhibition’s opening. This is matched by another work inside that assesses the amount by which this number has increased during the time it takes to make your way into the interior gallery from the outside – specifically, to 7.201,966,413. The various pieces conjure up various associations of this most evocative of lighting technologies: neon’s early allure as futuristic design, its use in propaganda, the seedy but romantic demi-monde conjured in film noir, the gaudy enticements of Las Vegas, the proliferating mid-20th century urban nightscape of advertising promotion, and the work of other artists. (see Christoph Ribbat’s Flickering Light, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flickering-Light-A-History-Neon/dp/1780230915 for a detailed account of these changing  cultural uses and meanings of neon.) Yet these works also stand apart from these resonances, the glow of neon picking out their economical, singular lines, enchanting their symbolic and affective charge.Gavin Turk Door

The show will subsequently visit the New Art Centre at  East Winterslow, Salisbury and most appropriately, the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool.

Thanks to Julie Westerman and Ulisses Barres de Almeida for photos.

January 25th, 2014 - 16:57pm

Categories

Tags

Contributors

Twitter