Julia and I visited two different light festivals as the final visits for our a-n professional development bursary, which rounded off a fantastic year of visiting inspiring exhibitions and events in variety of settings and spaces, motivating conversations with artists and festival organisers and developing our own work.
The first light festival that we visited was IN LIGHT: Illuminating Capability Brown’s Landscape by Createmosphere, which we saw at Compton Verney in November. It was a visually impressive festival that also allowed for high levels of audience engagement and participation, which was of particular interest to Julia and me.
Both the Mansion and the Bridge were beautifully lit, which highlighted the striking landscape and architecture. Booths situated around the site allowed the audience to alter the colours and direction of the lighting, which was a great way to engage the audience with the work.
On the lawns in front of the house were hundreds of solar lanterns, glowing with different colours. Close up, we could see that each jar contained a different design and had been created by children who visited the exhibition. Workshops in the mansion meant that every child had the opportunity to create a lantern by filling it with colourful translucent papers and plastics. It was a really effective technique, which allowed children to create something that looked very professional and contributed to the installation as a whole.
Overall, Julia and I were very inspired by the way in which the festival had provided opportunities for the audience to participate in the creation of the work. The piece would still have created a strong visual impact without this audience interaction, however this provided an extra level of interest. We feel that this is an important balance to find within our own work, where we hope to encourage and allow for participation without anyone feeling that they have to contribute if they don’t want to. IN LIGHT: Illuminating Capability Brown’s Landscape achieved this balance very successfully.
One of our last visits of the year for the a-n professional development bursary was one that we were particularly excited to see – Bruce Munro’s Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor (it’s on until 2nd January so there’s still time to see it!). Both Julia and I have wanted to see this installation for many years, after first hearing about it when we were studying for our undergraduate degrees.
It was still light when we arrived at Waddesdon Manor so we decided to explore the grounds whilst we waited for it to get dark. We discovered that there was a Christmas market on so bought some tasty treats too!
Field of Light was set away from the Manor itself, tucked away behind trees, meaning that any light coming from the Manor didn’t affect or reach the installation. The walk up to the work also had very low lighting levels, this was important as it allowed time for our eyes to adjust and helped to heighten the experience of the installation itself when it finally came into view by providing a contrast between the dark walk through the trees and then the thousands of lights that make up the work. As artists Julia and I are very interested in the experience of space created by an installation. It was clear in Bruce Munro’s work that the walk up to Field of Light and the space surrounding it was key to the experience of the installation itself. This focus on the context and experience as a whole is something that Julia and I will take on board for future projects.
Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor is made up of 9000 individual lights on ‘stems’, which have been ‘planted’ across the landscape. The effect is stunning, as the lights stretch off into to the distance. The colours of the lights across the installation gradually change, subtly animating the work. To me, this almost gave the impression that the work was breathing as it had a calming rhythm to it. A path meanders round the installation which allows you to feel really immersed in the work and to see it from a range of perspectives.
The shape, size and scale of Field of Light varies depending on it’s location, making it site-specific. It is currently also on display at Uluru in Northern Territory, Australia, where the installation consists of 50,000 light stems. This is also the location that originally inspired Bruce Munro to develop Field of Light. I’m off on a trip to Australia next year and was excited to hear that the installation has been so popular that the dates have been extended to March 2018, which means I can visit it in Uluru too! It will be fascinating to see the work on such different scales and in such different landscapes to see how it engages with each site.