Today, I visited the Hayward Gallery to see the “Light Show” at the London Southbank.
This exhibition is certainly one to see, or rather to experience: the reason I make this distinction is because one would assume you just “see” an exhibition dedicated to light. However, from the outset, you’ll be impressed by how sight is manipulated to create different experiential and physiological responses that will occur during your couple of hours here. Like the best experiences you can have, this show has the power to submerge you in a rather fantastical world where nothing else exists until you leave for the outside.
Now I’m not usually the type of visitor who spends multiple laborious hours salivating over the “delights” of every single exhibit in a show (preferring to pick and choose). So I found it quite out of the ordinary that each piece was so good it actually motivated me onto the next. There are twenty-five exhibits, a small selection chosen to demonstrate key works of this art medium. Given the “whole-body” response that some of these powerful stimuli can impress upon the visitor, I’d say that this is the perfect amount for a duration where you can drink in everything without feeling like you’ve had too much. Seminal artists include Carlos-Cruz-Diez, Jim Campell, Ivan Navarro and Nancy Holt (etc.).
The artists themselves, alongside curator Dr. Cliff Lauson have structured these installations to suit the built environment they are in – the idea that is integral to this exhibition is the relationship between light and sculpture. Therefore, you’ll find pieces that are positioned and developed to draw attention to how light, as a sculpting medium, can atmospherically fill a space. Two piece you’ll see when you go in, are very impressive in different ways. Leo Villareal’s LED cylinder II is comprised of hundreds of LED lights in a sculpture, which are programmed by computer generated algorithms to emit light. This piece creates a feeling of wonder and pure beauty, however is juxtaposed to the muddy colours of the city sunset, as depicted by David Batchelor, born in Dundee and how based in Las Vegas – somehow these two pieces work well, which is where you quite clearly see the talent of the curator, Dr Cliff Lauson, and team at the Hayward Gallery in bring this exhibition together.
According to curator, use of light as an artistic medium has been emerging since the sixties, although it “doesn’t have an ‘ism’” . Therefore it is not surprising that in the exhibition there is a total spectrum of works spanning the last six decades or so. Most obvious distinctions to make between the body of art here are, for example, the use of different light forms – a couple of pieces from the seventies use incandescent and neon lights to be effective, others use contemporary LED technology (technology in art is very evident through this exhibition). Juxtapose this with the use of white light and pitch black alongside pure colour to trick and distort the vision. Some pieces, because they are made of light, require their own spaces, so expect to venture into some dark rooms…. And prepare to be surprised by what’s lurking behind the corner!
Rather like the difference between buying an mp3 or an album, each piece of “light” leads onto the other which creates an overall “thesis” to this exhibition so it is worth seeing all in one sitting. These are also brilliantly shown off by the imposing backdrop of the Hayward Gallery, a concrete tribute to brutalistic architecture of the Sixties, which is perfect for this medium. However, the whole experience was crystallised by the fact that there were few people so it is highly recommendable to visit at an off-peak time – some installations cover complete rooms in colour, so too many people may disturb the interaction of the visitor and the installation. Overall, this was very pleasurable – 10*.
This exhibition will be on until 28th April 2013.