Light art harnesses light, be it natural or artificial, to create powerful artistic statements. It can be temporary or permanent, ranging from large scale, outdoor public artworks to subtle indoor installations
Some artists capture the wonder of natural light, while others make sculptures that produce electric light, exploring increasing developments in LED technology. One of the most powerful and best known examples is Olafur Eliasson’s giant artificial sun in The Weather Project, which lit up the entire Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2003.
Into the Light
In the 1960s light art became an increasingly popular feature in modern art, running in tandem with Minimalism, which celebrated clean, pure lines and a machine-like aesthetic. In the United States various artists led the way into the Light and Space movement, which had an international influence in the next few decades.
Dan Flavin was a major figure, producing quasi-religious installations and geometric arrangements with found fluorescent light tubes. James Turrell captured natural light in powerful sculptural constructions; his ‘Skyspace’ installations open large windows into the sky beyond from architectural chambers, allowing natural light to flood through in its many permutations and weather patterns.
Art historian Calvin Tompkins writes, “(Turrell’s) work is not about light, or a record of light; it is light – the physical presence of light made manifest in sensory form.”