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Light Research @ MMU

Op art updated with light: Galaxia II

For me, the most mesmerising installations at VIVID was Galaxia III (for a video of the work, see an ever-changing rectangle full of shifting geometric patterns of light that produced a riot of optical effects in the viewer.  Created by Alan Rose (, Galaxia II resonated with the work of the practitioners of op art of the 1960s and 70s. These artists were less concerned with producing representations of landscapes, still lives or figures than with focusing upon ideas and the relationship of a piece to the viewer. Such works were less concerned with the emotions of the artist and more about the mental state induced in the viewer. Galaxia 2, 1

Moreover, in the words of Simon Rycroft (2005, ‘The nature of op art: Bridget Riley and the art of non-representation’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space), this work was ‘a generator of perceptual responses, possessing a dynamic quality which provoked illusory images and sensations in the spectator’, thereby focusing attention on the perceptual capacities of human vision. These sensations are amplified by Alan’s use of light to further dramatically explore optical effects. He emphasises that one purpose of his work ‘is to induce a mental state – where the viewer goes from there is up to the individual imagination’. As with the op artists who influence his work, Alan contends that with Galaxia II, ‘there has to be some confusion… the opposing colours change so slowly that the viewer can’t quite remember what it looked like 10 seconds ago’. Galaxia2,2

He continues, ’the slowly changing colours and varying block shapes produce kinetic effects which are designed to induce transformative mindstates. The works give the initial illusion of random forms, but with the passing of time the completely ordered geometry is perceived. In this way they are situated between order and chaos, and hopefully compel the viewer to contemplate them for an extended period, maybe conjuring up personal narratives’. In confronting this work, we question whether what we are seeing is accurate or whether our eyes are playing tricks on us. This makes us wonder further about how we see with light. Do others perceive this work as we do? (thanks to Alan Rose).Galaxia 2, 3

June 10th, 2014 - 03:18am

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