I visited A Certain Kind of Light exhibition at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. Subtitled, Light in Art over Six Decades, it will come as no surprise that the subject matter was light!
Although a small collection of work, it was also a fascinating one. I wish to look at some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition and two that I struggled with.
This blog is intended to link with my last one regarding Richard Sweeney. It may be found here:
No catalogue was available for this collection, but I was permitted to photograph the work (I used my phone’s camera).
The next section of this blog looks at some of the work, whilst the subsequent considers my responses to this and Richard Sweeney’s work.
Fig. 1 above is an untitled piece by Anish Kapoor. I see little value in repeating the description above the photograph. The manipulation of the steel into this shape allows for a lot of play with reflection. As can be seen, I chose my position directly in front of the work to ensure that I appeared in various positions in the work. The depression in the middle however, appears to swallow the light. It is dark and without reflections and hints at a black hole. As the description implied, the cavity in the middle of the piece draws us into the work and produces a real sense of mystery about what can’t be seen.
Fig. 2. above, is as hypnotic as the description suggests. Standing directly in front of the painting whilst staring at the centre seems to force the colours in the outer rings to bleed into one another. To focus on the optical effects however, is to ignore the quality of the work. The rich and vibrant colours and their geometric arrangement are aesthetically pleasing in their own right.
The description of fig. 3. above offers an insight into Miller’s interesting photographic techniques. As can be seen from the upper image, the ‘photograph’ is a deep and vibrant red. Against that background, the circle hints at a setting sun. But it is black which suggests an absence of light and hence heat, and so the winter in the title is explained. The horizontal bars however, appear almost burnt onto the image accentuating a sense of some vestiges of heat and light permeating the dark. The overall effect is one of winter warmth and light. This was my favourite work in the exhibition.
Fig. 4 above however, illustrates the difficulties associated with curating such exhibitions. The glass in the frame was highly reflective, especially given the lighting conditions in the hall. The net effect was to dull the richness and vibrancy of the image and to obscure the glowing embers of light across the circle.
There were many other pieces I enjoyed but there were many I didn’t particularly care for. I will discuss two of these.
The description with fig. 5, above, describes Bulloch’s piece. The sequence of lights has been caught in this photograph just as both lights are illuminated.
I struggled with this work. Whilst I think the idea is an interesting one, I feel the execution of the piece is entirely uninteresting. The two lights do illuminate in different sequences which means that they do not often illuminate together. As the description states, this does suggest that it would be possible to find out the timing/pattern under which the lights operate. This does, however, make the piece feel like little more than a puzzle to be solved. Once solved we move on. I certainly did not find the piece in any sense aesthetically pleasing.
The description with fig. 6, above, suggests that this piece “…points to the way the aesthetic of modernism has permeated all areas of modern life.”
This is another work with which I struggled. The idea doesn’t particularly interest me. As with Pink Chance Corner, I also found this to be uninteresting to view. In fact I disliked this so much that I was reminded of the quote; “Art is anything you can get away with.” (At this point I should say that I thought it was attributed to Andy Warhol but my subsequent research suggests it was Marshall McLuhan who said it.)
As I said at the start of this blog, I enjoyed this exhibition. There was an interesting mix of art on display and it was an education to see the many and various interpretations of light, in what was largely a modern and contemporary context.
The visit stimulated a continuation of the thoughts that started at Chester Cathedral with the Sweeney installation and exhibition. Whilst answering the question, what is art, is both stimulating and demanding, I came away from both exhibitions wondering how is art judged? I have heard the observation that there are only two types of music; good and bad, attributed to a variety of people. Is this true of all art? Does a great idea make great art? Is it only the idea that matters? And so I return to the question I asked at the end of the Sweeney blog. Galleries have to make judgements, so what makes a piece of art sufficiently interesting to warrant acquisition and display by the Tate, for example, as opposed to display in Chester Cathedral?
I have no intention of trying to answer all of these questions here but I am interested to discuss what I learned about myself from Bulloch’s Pink Chance Corner. From the description that accompanied the work, the idea behind it seemed an interesting one. For me, though, this wasn’t enough. The execution of the idea had to be intellectually and visually stimulating. Bulloch’s work comprised two identical lights mounted on the wall, flashing to different timing sequences. I felt it met neither criteria. Initial curiosity regarding the lighting sequence quickly evaporated and the visual stimulation offered by two lights on a wall was insufficient for me. In short, a good idea doesn’t necessarily make for good art.
List of Illustrations
Figure 1. Haywood, J. (2017) Reflections on Anish Kapoor. [Photograph] In: possession of: The author: Brighton.
Figure 2. Haywood, J. (2017) Peter Sedgley’s Corona. [Photograph] In: possession of: The author: Brighton.
Figure 3. Fabian Miller, G. (2011) “Forming Enclosure, Winter” [Photograph] At: http://www.garryfabianmiller.com/work/title/f (Accessed on 07 May 2017)
Figure 4. Haywood, J. (2017) A different view of Miller’s Forming Enclosure. [Photograph] In: possession of: The author: Brighton.
Figure 5. Haywood, J. (2017) Bulloch’s Pink Chance Corner as the lights coincide. [Photograph] In: possession of: The author: Brighton.
Figure 6. Haywood, J. (2017) Opie’s Indirect Lighting (with Bulloch’s Pink Chance Corner). [Photograph] In: possession of: The author: Brighton.