Let There Be (Sculptural) Light 1

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Thursday, December 12th, 2013
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While some have declared 2013 as the year of the pendant, it has also ignited a move into light as art through a boom in sculptural lighting.

The relationship between light and art continues to flourish as the humble light globe moves from being a functional choice to one where sustainability and aesthetics are prime considerations.

While there is always room for minimalist pendants and casual wall fixtures, there is a growing market desire for whimsical pieces and light products that captivate and encourage observation.

“Sculptural lighting is a platform of expression and exploration of light and matter,” said Ilan El of ilanel lighting studio. “It is a three-dimensional piece that uses an artificial light source as medium of expression.”

Ilan El

Ilan El, ilanel lighting studio

“The light source will not always be the primary element (or focal point) but will always enhance the piece and its surroundings. Sculptural lighting celebrates the space it resides within, often uplifting the spirit whether through spatial drama or beautification.”

There are many forms of sculptural lighting and the application of physics, or illuminative engineering, also plays a huge part in the success of the growing field of sculptural lighting.

“In order to stretch limits, be innovative and exciting, one must be fully informed of the engineering side of things,” El said. “There are countless combinations of materials and forms…each of which will behave differently and require unique solutions.”

As an example, El referred to the combination of timber and incandescent lamps where the heat generated from the lamp can pose a flammable risk. He said this concern can be mitigated through the introduction of heat-sinking elements.

Ora, Ilanel

Ora, ilanel

Other forms of sculptural illumination include interactive pieces. El has produced one of his own, entitled Ora, which he said “meditates between light and darkness through transparent colour.”

The colours reflected from Ora encourage personalisation and allow the user to make an emotional connection with the coloured light.

El has another sculptural piece (Nu) which allows the user to consistently change the light fixture’s form, in turn altering the surrounding illumination.

Nu, ilanel

Nu, ilanel

In the global lighting market, scientific artist Paul Friedlander’s is renowned for his kinetic sculptural lighting projects.

Friedlander combines rope and light to create a kaleidoscope of illuminative colour.

“Chromastrobic light changes colour faster than the eye can see, causing the appearance of rapidly moving forms to mutate in the most remarkable ways,” he said.

Paul Friedlander Kinetic Light Sculptures

Paul Friedlander Kinetic Light Sculptures

Zaha Hadid’s Avia and Aria lamps, launched at Salone Del Mobile in Milan, also captivated the industry this year.

The lamps feature intrinsic design detail and offer 360 degrees of illumination thanks to six integrated light sources and a downward-facing spotlight. The lamps further consist of individual layers of lightweight cristaflex techno polymer material that creates the “effect of fluidity, dynamism and harmony.”

El predicts that while many sculptural lighting pieces are designed to be installed in an indoor environment, the technique will begin to move outdoors in the form of lighting installations.

The designer was commissioned to design and fabricate an outdoor light installation for the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar. His design brief was to recreate one of his current lighting pieces (Rain Light Drops) into a piece 3.2-metres in diameter.

Avia and Aria by Zaha Hadid

Avia and Aria by Zaha Hadid

“Apart from its massive size, the main challenge was waterproofing it. This was achieved by redesigning every element to suit these requirements,” El said.

In Winter, the City of Melbourne took to sculptural lighting with the 13-metre high Helix Tree,  a sculpture of steel and light by renowned lighting designer Bruce Ramus.

“Inspired by the naturally occurring shape of the helix, the sculpture (was) constructed from 21 curved steel beams fitted with hundreds of LED lights,” Ramus said.

The design used sound-responsive technology, reacting to the voices of Melbourne, which control the display.

While El doesn’t align sculptural lighting as a “trend,” he noted that several materials are in high demand for the design technique, namely metals including copper, brass and carbon.

Helix Tree, Melbourne

Helix Tree, Melbourne

As expected, however, green materials are always on-trend.

With the growth in the shift toward sculptural lighting, as 2013 has shown, the field shows a remarkable breadth of opportunities for artists and designers alike.

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  1. Peter Wilconter

    I like sculptural lighting because they are 3d art pieces that can change dramatically between day and night, or between light and darkness.

    They are dynamic objects that interact with the environment.