Light Show at the Hayward Gallery
Light Show, at the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery, is a new exhibition of light-based art. The show brings together 25 works of sculpture and installation created by British and international artists over the past five decades. Some pieces have been recreated especially for the show, after not being displayed for a number of years, whilst others, such as pieces by the Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Elíasson, are new works being exhibited in the UK for the first time.
The Hayward Gallery has gathered a reputation for exceptional exhibitions and with Light Show it does not disappoint. It is often bulb-lit signs and neon tubes that spring to mind when picturing the use of electric lighting in art, therefore, the innovative concepts at play in this exhibition might come as something of a surprise. Elíasson’s Model for a Timeless Garden (2011), for example, uses strobe lighting to freeze fountains of water in time. The droplets rise up, like growing flora, and are then suspended in the air, like shimmering beads on a glass chandelier.
The gallery space invites the viewer to interact with the pieces – from donning shoe protectors to walk into Carlos Cruz-Díez’s installation of light-saturated rooms entitled Chromosaturation (1965-2013) to entering the infinity-mirrored bottomless cubicle that is Iván Navarro’s Reality Show (2010).
There is even a chance to play with some works, such as Anthony McCall’s You and I, Horizontal (2005) where viewers can either stand back and admire the images formed by the laser-like beams or intervene, displacing them using hands and figures.
To exhibit light there must naturally be some darkness and viewers must carefully follow a pitch-black passageway to arrive at James Turrell’s Wedgework V (1974). As with several of the works, it takes some time for the viewer’s eyes to adjust to the lighting, but once they have the result is breathtaking.
Another imaginative piece is Conrad Shawcross’ Slow Arc inside a Cube IV (2009). Inspired by Plato’s cave allegory, the piece consists of a mechanical arm fitted with a finger of light, which moves within a mesh cube, constantly altering the patterns on the room’s walls and ceiling so that the viewer almost feels as if they are spinning.
The exhibition is a visual delight full of unique and exciting works. Of all London’s current exhibitions, this is one which certainly shouldn’t be missed. The show provides an enjoyable, immersive experience and can be highly recommended to viewers of all ages.