Light Art is a relatively new but increasingly independent form of art. Quite diverse and imaginative, it sees artists create installations and experiment with light, sound, space and motion. Many light art festivals now illuminate cities and towns across the globe, with these spectacular events often promoting energy efficiency or being connected to a city’s heritage
Thanks to technology, paintbrushes or chisels are no longer required to create an incredible artwork. Historically, light has been used to supplement and enhancemore “genuine” art forms, like architecture or stained glass. But, as modern technology increased, so did the ways in which light could be used in artistic pursuits.
This led, soon enough, to artists beginning to transition light from its more traditional supporting role and to an innovative medium for artistic expression unto itself. According to Wikipedia, light art, or luminism, is an applied art form in which light is the main medium of expression. It is an art form in which either a sculpture produces light or light is used to produce a “sculpture” through the manipulation of light, colours and shadows. Light Art defines an artistic movement, but also an idea, a project that interacts with architecture, the urban landscape and the natural environment to create a new experience in visual perception through new methods of using indoor and outdoor spaces to transmit cultural messages.
Light is a visual, physical, psychological, symbolic and perceptual factor that’s linked to the feelings and moods of each of us
The perception of a spatial environment is the main characteristic of this kind of art, which uses “light” as the preferred medium to communicate an inner state of mind or to design a location to engage the public directly.
The phenomenon of Light Art has also recently spread in the fields of design and architecture, becoming a design language in the definition of volume, space, shapes, colours of objects, buildings, monuments and interiors. Light is a visual, physical, psychological, symbolic and perceptual factor tied to the feelings and moods of each of us. It, therefore, acts as an element of identity that helps artists, designers and architects during the creation of a project and in its representation.
In contemporary art, the phenomenon of Light Art emerged in the second half of the 20th century, developing from the work of two artists: Dan Flavin and James Turrell.
Originally trained in fine art, Dan Flavin ultimately became a light art pioneer. His illuminated sculptures offer a rigorous formal and conceptual investigation of space and light, which saw the artist arrange commercial fluorescent bulbs into differing geometric compositions.
Other early titans of light art have also helped this medium break new ground. James Turrell in particular has used his background in perceptual psychology to explore light as an object that has volume, as well as perception as an artistic medium in its own right.
Light and Space Movement has been initiated by Robert Irwin, who envisaged light-based art that acclimated to its location, existing to heighten the viewer’s understanding of the environment in which it was displayed.
While the movement only really took off in the 1960s, new media artists have managed to take the work to the next level using the latest technology. Current light art is quite diverse and imaginative. Many artists, art groups and collectives around the world create immersive art installations or light sculptures, while others experiment with light, sound and motion, and some conduct spatial interventions, light projections and spectacles. Regardless of the technique applied, lighting is today perceived as one of the most potent tools to shape people’s experience, with many multimedia artists incorporating light into their projects.
Whether fragile sculptures shaped like flowers or an artistic swarm of birds made of illuminated drones – the observer can discover art that presents the world from a different perspective
Playing with light could be very inspirational. Various artists find inspiration in natural environments, cultural sites or architecture. For instance, renowned British light artist Bruce Munro has produced some of the world’s most dazzling and attention-grabbing light installations in public gardens and on museum lawns. Some use light to explore environmental space and perception. Others, like Yayoi Kusama and Jenny Holzer, create light-based works that engage contemporary issues deeply and carve a space for diverse artistic viewpoints. There are also artists like Maja Petrić, who create bodies of work that illuminate our notion of personal identity and community.
On the other hand, the fascinating light art of the duo that comprises Studio Drift blurs the borders between technology and nature. Whether fragile sculptures shaped like flowers or an artistic swarm of birds made of illuminated drones – the observer can discover art that presents the world from a different perspective. Even the spectacular aurora borealis is inspiring artists to create light installations.
Lighting sensations are largely incorporated into the entertainment industry, events and tourist attractions. Designers and specialised agencies implement all sorts of light and sound installations to create mood, atmosphere and visual stimulation at corporate events or concerts. The most sensational, however, is the light art festivals that today illuminate cities and towns across the globe.