«Wow». That was the first and momentarily only thought that came to my mind on entering the first room of the Hayward Gallery exhibition Light Show.
I don’t know the reason, but lights always fascinated me. It might be because they remind me of Christmas, or maybe because they have a way of making me feel safe, but one way or another their sparkle always brings a smile to my face. This however was something else entirely.
Featuring sculptures and installations created over the past five decades, from the 1960s to the present, the exhibition shows how artificial light can be used to transform space and influence or alter perception, and explores how the viewer experiences and psychologically responds to illumination and colour. You can thus find yourself in a room that constantly changes colour or light intensity, going from a somber grey to an intense orange in a matter of seconds, or staring at an infinite number of white LED lights that light up and turn off creating shapes that evoke meteor showers, fireworks, falling snow and other natural phenomena.
…a large sculpture made of light which can be walked around…
In this exhibition, although light has become a medium for art, the role of the viewer is central in many of the installations. You and I, Horizontal, by Anthony McCall, is a perfect example of it. Without a doubt everyone’s favourite, it is a large sculpture made of light which can be walked around, into and through that brings you the closest you will ever be to understanding what it feels like to be inside the light. On another note, Doug Wheeler’s Untitled draws attention to the fact that vision is the most unreliable of the senses and renders the idea of a spatially ambiguous environment: the square made of neon signs seems to be floating in space, and the viewer, because of the absence of hard edges on the walls around him, feels like he is in another dimension. In a completely different way, Bulb Box Reflection II by Bill Culbert engages the viewer by featuring a mystery that everyone around the installation was trying hard to solve.
The whole exhibition is thus a collection of light seen in different ways: from light connected to movement to light which reproduces moonlight, from light connected to shadow to light used to convey a message, every new sculpture leaves you more amazed than the one before. You will probably leave thinking that normal lightbulbs are incredibly boring compared to what you have just seen, and wishing you could have a reproduction of You and I, Horizontal at home, but the exhibition is more than worth it.
The exhibition continues until 28 April.
Admission fee: £11 ; £9