Light Show @The Hayward Gallery


Last Thursday I went to see the latest exhibition at The Hayward Gallery, Light Show, which focused on the artistic use of artificial light. The work was from a variety of different sources, including one of my favourite artists Olafur Eliasson; sadly his beautiful piece Model for a Timeless Garden used strobe lighting which eventually made me feel sick so I couldn’t watch it for as long as I would have liked.


The piece used the strobe lights to trick the eye into viewing a set of water fountains as solid objects by freezing them in the flash. The effect produced was that of crystal-like sculptures that changed every split-second, with streams of diamond spheres hovering overhead. Sadly, like so many of the pieces, the photo doesn’t do it justice, and makes it look like a bunch of garden fountains.

A piece which I felt was overlooked by many in this exhibition was Light bulb to Simulate Moonlight by Katie Paterson. On my second circuit around the exhibition I sat in this room for a time and was struck by how many of the visitors poked their heads around the curtain, saw a bare bulb hanging low from the ceiling, and left. In fact the quality of the light produced was so beautiful, subtle and clever that I found it quite moving. Paterson worked with a lighting engineer to create a “moonlight” bulb to contrast to the popular daylight bulb – and the resulting artificial moonlight produced was truly lovely. The piece also contains enough bulbs for a lifetime; I couldn’t help but think how much I would love to own one to light my bedroom as the current bare bulb is anything but relaxing…

The final piece I’ll talk about by Anthony McCall. You and I, Horizontal is a projected light sculpture which turns light into a tangible, tactile object. A projector beams the slowly moving film through a hazy, darkened room and the resulting cylinders of light encompass the audience who are then likely to spend the next 20 minutes as I did; reaching out their hands like children to grasp the air. What I liked most about this piece was the way that the visual effect was so strong, I could “feel” the light, which was amazing.

Overall I completely loved the exhibition and if you can go, go! There were so many more incredibly clever and beautiful pieces, and these three are merely a fragment. One thing I would recommend if you do go, is in Doug Wheeler’s piece stand in the middle and slightly in front of everyone else!! He does say this in the description but so many ignored it and were underwhelmed. When I did this I had the strangest sensation that my eyes couldn’t focus and the installation became much more striking.

– Grace

None of the pictures used in this post are my own.


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