Into the light

I’ve recently joined the Urban Sketchers, an online group of people from around the world that like to draw (in whatever medium). Their ‘mission’ is to “Show the world, one drawing at a time”. This week there is a theme to draw artificial light. Given it is Christmas there was only one choice for me – the ‘icicle’ lights on my house.

Blue 'icicle' lights, 29 December 2013.

Blue ‘icicle’ lights, 29 December 2013.

There were several challenges to doing this drawing, not the least of which was re-setting the lights to ‘steady’, rather than a fit-inducing flashing sequence. The biggest problem was the colour of the light itself. Being such an intense blue (it gives a real disco fluorescent whiteness to any white clothing), it was a challenge to firstly see my page let alone get some realistic colour onto it.

So, a la Vincent, I put on my camping headlight so I actually had a white light to work on my page. Capturing the intensity of the individual lights and the backwash of colour has proved quite difficult. However I’m happy with this first attempt. I will try to develop a more intense version of this scene, using photographs I’ve taken as I’m not sure that I could take another half hour session sitting in this light. After finishing I got one of those ‘afterglow’ optical effects where everything I saw went ‘orange’. The only other time I have had such a strong effect was in experiencing James Turrell’s work Open Field, at the Chichu Museum on Naoshima Island in Japan.

Within Without (James Turrell)

One of the highlights of the renovation of the National Gallery of Australia a few years back was the installation of a major artwork by James Turrell called Within Without. If you are familiar with his work you will know that he likes to use light and optical illusions in his space/sculptural works. In this case a domed room has been enclosed inside a truncated pyramid, with both the pyramid and room open to the sky (if you follow the link you can get a sense of the space). It’s a nice space to sit in during the day, but at dawn and dusk there is a special lightshow that really makes the work quite magical. If you live in Canberra, or visiting, I would highly recommend that you experience this amazing artwork.

experiencing WithinWithout at the National Gallery of Australia.

Experiencing Within Without at the National Gallery of Australia.

After the last day of the watercolour workshop we were just there at the right time to see the lightshow. I was amazed and hope you will be too. Just remember that the ‘circle’ you see in the following series of images is a hole in the roof of the building. The colour surrounding the hole is projected onto the rooms white walls. The apparent colour changes of the ‘circle’ are in fact an optical illusion. These images were taken over a period of 40 minutes using my camera phone (much better than my old pocket digital camera!).

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How Turner, the brilliant colourist, would be working if he was alive today was discussed during our workshop. I think he might have been working like James Turrell.