Light Show

A belated Happy New Year!

2014 was pretty epic, and here’s hoping 2015 will be equally exciting and rewarding!  After what has been more than a month of flawlessly sunny weather, today has brought some stubborn grey clouds and the patter of rain.  Perhaps a sign I should be writing 🙂

I recently caught the Light Show at Auckland Art Gallery, and may I simply say, mind blown.  Audacious in breadth and spectacle, it features object and installation works by about 20 artists from the 1960s till today, all with a focus on light.

Taking up two floors of the gallery, these artworks are highly experiential – you have to wander through them, engage your senses and have your perceptions tested.  Light can be all encompassing and pervasive, and thus alter environments.  I almost didn’t recognise some of the gallery spaces that I had visited for previous exhibitions, as they were shrouded in darkness or fully transformed by light and colour.  A number of the works require you to stop and wait, as time plays a role in how light behaves.

There is such a broad spectrum of works in the Light Show that everyone is bound to have favourites, and there were definitely a few that captured my attention.  On the ground floor, Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation (2013) involves roaming through three rooms, each separately lit with red, green and blue light.  You can explore these spaces clockwise or anti-clockwise and thus alter the transitions of colour.  It takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the intensity of the light, but it is a riveting experience.  The white cubes suspended high up in the corners of the space, at the points where the colour of the light changes, were particularly fascinating.  One face of the cube is lit with the colour of the bygone room whilst another is shaded with the imminent hue, like signalling beacons lighting your journey.

Get a glimpse of Chromosaturation at 0:10 of the following video:

On the same floor is another spectacular work by Cerith Wyn Evans, titled S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive’s overspill…’) (2010).  Three massive transparent columns filled with light filaments run from the ceiling to the floor.  In some ways they resemble Classical ruins or totem poles, and you can easily feel dwarfed by these gigantic ‘suns’.  As one column gradually dims, another subsequently illuminates the darkened room, generating a wonderful rhythm amongst the trio.  The way the columns irradiate can be likened to breathing; giving visuals to a nearly invisible action we do every day.  Beautifully constructed, Evans’ work give off a discernable heat, like they are truly alive.

You can catch Evans’ work breathing at 3:22:

Heading upstairs to the second floor of the exhibition, I was captivated by the sensory challenging work of Olafur Eliasson.  Model for a Timeless Garden (2011) features an elevated bench with an array of small waterfalls, at the other end of a pitch black room pulsating with strobe lighting.  Not for the light sensitive, it can be a bit difficult to make your way towards the waterfalls, but it is definitely worth it.  Initially I thought my eyes were deceiving me, that they weren’t actual waterfalls, but you can feel sprays of water when up close.  The strobe lighting interrupts how we normally view water, with the lapses of time freezing, and in some cases reversing, the cascading flow.  The way that the light fractures the water makes the droplets seem more solid, like falling crystals.  Spellbinding, bewildering, this artwork definitely raised questions about how he did it and whether I needed to get my vision checked 😛

A short clip of Eliasson’s work in motion, if you are sensitive to strobe lighting please take care!

Lastly, my final favourite certainly caught me off guard.  After seeing Eliasson’s I really didn’t think anything could equal it in terms of playing with perception.  Directly around the corner was the back of Exploded View (Commuters) (2011) by Jim Campbell, which at first seemed like it was just flickering fairy lights.  I didn’t quite get it, until I noticed people’s amazement when they were looking at it from the front.  Only then did I realise the genius of his work.  These lights create a consolidated moving image, one that comes into vision from a specific angle, and becomes sharper and more three-dimensional at a greater distance.  Ultimately it’s like you are watching a movie of commuters walking across the screen.  The mind attempts to reconcile these arbitrarily lit bulbs with the complete image before you.  Utterly mesmerising and enthralling.

Like pure magic, click to 2:53 to see the work at a distance, but definitely have a listen to Campbell’s explaining the work:

The Light Show concludes on Sunday 8th February at Auckland Art Gallery, a must see!