Tag Archives: light

James Turrell Lightscapes

After an eight hour round trip across the country with LL just to see James Turrell’s Lightscapes exhibition, I was pleased that every second in the car was well spent. This collection of Turrell’s pieces is currently being shown in Houghton Hall, Norfolk in the grand house built in 1720 for Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister (oh, didn’t you know that either?).

James Turrell is preoccupied with the medium of light, and how we perceive (and apprehend) light and space. His works is grounded in mathematics and perceptual psychology, and having now experienced his work first hand – can be described as bordering somewhere between psychedelic and transcendental.

He once said, that the goal of the art process was not to turn an experience into art, but to “set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.” [1]. This is so unbelievably true with Turrell’s work, more so than any other artist or installation I have come across before.

The current owner of Houghton Hall is a bit of a Turrell fan, and (as you do) has two of Turrell’s pieces permanently on display in the rather beautiful spacious grounds around the house. The work in the photo above is Skyspace, an example of one of the enclosed viewing chambers which affect your perception of the sky. The open roof, is a deep, intense blue which looks like a solid sky painted on the ceiling – until you see a cloud or a bird fly by. You go back outside and suddenly the sky seems free again and immaterial – reality seems to be just a trick of the light.

It’s impossible to photograph Turrell’s work to do it any justice, and some of his pieces such as his ‘Tall Glass’ piece Shrim (2015), we just stared at captivated. While we were looking at Shrim, A couple of teenagers bounced into the room to look at the coloured plate on the wall then turned and went out again. LL and I continued to watch, and realised that the shapes and colours (so fuzzy and indistinct I thought I had taken my glasses off for a moment) were gradually cycling in and out, so slowly it was like staring to watch the moon climbing over the sky.

A few of my photos which (although not perfect) give you some idea:

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Enzu, Green (1968)

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Raethro, Red (1969)

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First Light (1989-90)

The last piece we saw was the second of the two permanent features in the estate: St. Elmo’s Breath, known as a Space Division Construction. This is housed in an old watertower and is a standout piece. You are guided into a completely darkened room (which I tell you is not fun for a claustrophobic who is scared of pitch black darkness). You experience what seems to be an endless, fuzzy darkness, until very gradually, a gentle muted colour field reveals itself from the walls of the room. After about 20 minutes the fuzz clears and your eyes finally allow you to see not only the panels on the walls in front of you, but the shapes of the other people around you. Quite something.

As a final cherry on the exhibition cake, we also spotted a Richard Long sculpture (one of a handful of permanent contemporary sculptures that are on the site). This piece, Full Moon Circle interacts with the surroundings in a fascinating way. Overall, a great day out.
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References:

  1. J. Turrell, Mapping Spaces, Peter Blum, New York, NY, 1987
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MA Project proposal v1.3.1

Tweaked again (and hopefully improved) from the paper version I shared with Maiko at my tutorial last week – including a research question now, general tightening and the first steps in a plan.


 

MA Project Proposal draft v1.3: Seen / Unseen

Research question

What can the interplay of light, shadow and space represent about reality: our visual perception of what we believe reality to be filtered through the inner world within our own minds?

Light is the fundamental information carrier in the universe.  It has an infinite reach – no information can travel faster.  Light has an immense spectrum far beyond the minute fraction of wavelengths which the human eye can observe.  It pervades our entire universe – it is both the flicker of the flame and the warmth of the fire. Modern physics suggests that the universe has more dimensions than we can observe – the rest are hidden, compactified, mysterious. Light however can only travel within our known four dimensional universe – it is bound onto the plane our own existence.  What if the theory is true, and there is something beyond this plan which light cannot penetrate – out into the void and these hidden dimensions of space or time – other universes, other realities?

Context 

Philosophical debate: How can objects help provide a lever for us to contemplate meaning in our lives and existence, and encourage us to question the nature of reality. How can society reconcile mankind’s search for meaning in the modern age through a journey of reflection, contemplation and revelation.

  • What visual cues or impressions can we use to connect our ‘inner selves’ with the wider universe around us?
  • What mindset change can occur for the user of an object / viewer of an image – what emotions can be invoked – a sense of transcendence or meditation?  of curiosity?

The objective of my research study is therefore to ask:

  • Can an object represent something of the things we cannot see or which exist at the boundary of our perception? The hidden meaning / worlds / realities we search for?
  • Can I create works which describe the unseen depths: appealing to the edges of our senses? (Is this a question about the phenomenology of perception?).  Visually obscuring / only partially seeing something?
  • What hidden understanding can only be revealed in the shadows (hidden spaces, hidden messages)? Add what becomes clear in the light?

I would like to make a series of contemporary objects which explore these properties which combine my traditional craft skills with functional art and with modern design (using my inspiration from modern Scandinavian aesthetics).

Relevant artists and collections (extract – full table is on written document):

James Turrell
Frank Lloyd Wright
Anthony Gormley (Another Place, Blind Light, Event Horizon 2007)
Fred Eerdekens (Shadows)
Ekkehard Altenburger (Mirrorhouse, 1996)
Leonid Tishkov

Methodology 

I am interested in looking at semi-transparent materials, or changing the nature of a material to be able to reveal something (e.g. holes, carvings etc).  I also plan to make use of natural and LED lighting to experiment with light and shadow within an object (making an “object space”) and seeing what alteration or embellishment of the object space can say or change about the user’s mind (the “inner space”).

1. Main project thread, initially starting off with a mini project: “Ghost candles”

Ghost candles: aim to complete by end of term 1

Ghost candles (or will o’ the wisp) are a swamp phenomenon often associated with seeing fairies or spirits (perhaps of the dead); these are observed as diffuse misty lights which disappear as you get closer to them. A string of fairy lights will represent the range of spirits which people may see as they observe the lights – everyone sees something different based on their own mind and experiences – but be careful not to follow the lights, else you get lost and make little candles of your own.

Method:

  • Taking a string of simple white LED fairy lights and using them to create light covers for each one using different materials including fabrics, papers, glass, paper clay.
  • Will need to design a simple construction method and use the same form for each cover to be able to compare
  • Reflect and select ideas to take forward and asses which materials I enjoyed working with

Objectives to test properties of different materials in a quick and simple way and see what effects the materials have on the way the light is diffused and filtered through the covers. What effect on the mood of the space does the light intensity and the pattern (light / shadow) have?

2. Research and literature study on historical and contemporary context including the art v craft debate; how non-fashion based textiles (and stitched textiles in particular) are viewed by the community; and looking into other connected artists works.

3. Experiments – current plans:

  • Photographic narrative – what is revealed through darkness, shadow and partial light
  • How is an object seen through distortion (reflection, water, moonlight) and does this change how we perceive the object?

28.09.14