Daniel von Sturmer
30th June – 23rd July 2016
Anna Schwartz Gallery
‘Electric Light’ presents a scenography of forms borrowed from the world-behind-the-scenes of lens based image production. Backdrops, stands, flats, flags and bounces populate the gallery space, illuminated by a changing array of coloured lights. A moving light animates the space with changing forms, shapes and colours, adding another layer of dynamic activity. Viewers occupy a set, a staged composition of props brought to life, animated by light and colour changing around them.
Using light as a material the work brings the apprehension of luminous colour to the foreground. A circle of light, slowly panning or abruptly appearing only to fade again carries associative meaning, evoking the cosmic or the banal; perhaps both at once. Colours shift, intensities fade and shadows crawl; a compulsion toward narrative.
Colour is a construct, a mode of differentiating the wavelengths embedded in visible light. Colour is to light as pitch is to sound. The same electromagnetic spectrum encompasses radio waves at the long end and gamma rays at the shortest. Light is all around us but is often invisible (or unnoticed) until it presents itself in some evocative or meaningful way; a ray of sunlight, a sudden flash, a reflected glow.
Starting with the idea of exploding video into its constituent elements, this new work brings light to the foreground and renders the gallery as an unfolding set. Colour in film and TV often becomes a shortcut to meaning, cinematographers ‘paint with light’ and use colour and brightness to convey story elements or to stage a particular presence. Attending to colour on its own terms, through perception, we see and feel its effects directly. It generates a physiological response, altering moods and internal states.
Light is also intimately connected to the perception of time; shaping the diurnal rhythm of night and day. The rising and setting of the sun provides the magic hour of evening light, the sharp cool of midday blue, the dark of deep night, dawn’s energetic spectrum. For millennia our evolving bodies have been tuned to the shifting subtleties of the sun’s influence on our atmosphere and our appreciation for minute shifts in hue, intensity and angle accounts for much of our inner life.
It is said the brain holds a model of the world and processes only tiny parts of the sensory field to check against what it expects to see. It holds a model in mind, or rather the mind has a model. This accounts for how we manage to deal with such a taxing perceptual system; in reality we may only be attending to small aspects of the visual field. Expectation trumps apprehension, which is the perpetuator of illusions and problems of perceptual reality.
Lens based media such as photography, film and video are inextricably linked to ideas of the real. Light, true and constant, becomes a measure of veracity. Through the lens, any lens, as with the eye, truth can be distorted. The truth the lens purports is always: a truth, a position. Viewers in the gallery context bring their own apparatus; a perceptual system complete with memory bank and critical appraisal techniques. The viewer has agency. They apprehend and make meaning, find meaning, and question. A set is staged for play to unfold in electric light.
This exhibition was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.