Light art or luminism is an applied art form in which light is the main medium of expression. It is an art form in which either a sculpture produces light, or light is used to create a “sculpture” through the manipulation of light, colours, and shadows. These sculptures can be temporary or permanent, and can exist in two distinctive spaces: indoor galleries, such as museum exhibits, or outdoors at events like festivals. Light art can be an interaction of light with in an architectural space. Light artists are those that devote all their creative experimentation to light art, some artists experiment with light and neon signage and use light in their practice.
Light art is a relatively young art form that experiences a great growth because of the LED revolution. Light is a versatile and highly visual ‘material’ that can be used both abstract and figurative. Both forms are reflected in the artworks of the festival.
Light arts can and should be situated within the lineage of recent art. The optical tour-de-force of much of the work establishes its affinity with the eye-bending paintings of Op Artists. And yet the more serene passages, in which translucent color washes over veils of other translucent color, evoke the lyrical abstractions of less-hyperactive modernist masters.
Artists abstract painting and focused on a more sensory way of experiencing art. Light was an important element here. Light was used in various forms in their artworks: from fire to floodlights and projections to neon lamps.
Contemporary light artists consider the city as their main territory. The place where advertisements, traffic lights and flickering neon pipes cream for attention, these artists see as an inspiration and challenge for their own work. All these talents have the ever-advancing technology on their side. With LED lightning and advanced projections they can tell you everything they want. They speak an international language.
The first examples of modern light art appeared after the discovery of electric lighting made longterm lighting safe and affordable at the end of the 19th century. Light art however didn’t become a dedicated form of art until the late 20th century, due in large part due to pioneering work begun in 1969, as part of an experimental program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, by Robert Irwin and James Turrell.
Light has been used for architectural effect throughout human history. However, the modern concept of light art emerged with the development of artificial electric incandescent light sources and experimentation by modern artists of the Constructivist and Bauhaus movements. “Prounenraum (Proun Room) (1923), by El Lissitzky, is considered by many art historians to be the first time an artist incorporated architectural lighting elements as a component integral to his work.”[not in citation given][not in citation given] The first object-based light sculpture was the Light-Space Modulator (1922-1930), by László Moholy-Nagy. Experimentation and innovations in theatrical light have often influenced other areas of light use such as light art. The development of Modernism and the electric light go hand-in-hand; the idea of the modern city with high-rises and electric light epitomizes this development.
All visual art uses light in some form, but in modern photography and motion pictures, use of light is especially important. However, with the invention of electrical artificial light, possibilities expanded and many artists began using light as the main form of expression, rather than solely as a vehicle for other forms of art. Constructivist Naum Gabo experimented with the transparent materiality light reflects on an object; his Linear Construction No. 1 (1943) provides an example of this. Marcel Duchamp’s Hat Rack (1916 and 1964), hangs from the ceiling and casts a shadow against the wall.
The interplay of dark and light has been a theme running from Greek and Roman sculpture to Renaissance painting to experimental film. But as technology advanced from the glow of the electric light bulb to the computer monitor, artists have been experimenting with actual light as material and subject.”
Closely associated art forms are projectors, 3-D map projection, multi-media, video art, and photography where light technology projects images rather than using light as the medium. Large light festivals and events have helped to develop the use of light on large canvases such as architectural facades, building projections, the flood lighting of buildings with colour, and interactive media facades. These forms of light art have their antecedents in new media-based, video art and photography which are sometimes classified as light art since light and movement are important to the work.
Also included in the light art genre is the so-called light graffiti including projection onto buildings, arrangement of lighted windows in buildings, and painting with hand-held lights onto film using time exposure.
Lightpaintings use of light purely in and of itself not as a collateral effect of pigment or architectural structure. Lightpainting is an art form developed by artist Stephen Knapp and introduced in 2002. Lightpainting (one word) is not to be confused with light painting (two words), the latter of which is a photographic process recording traces of light on film or digital media to create images that must be reproduced in printed or transparency form. Lightpainting uses white light projected in space through specially coated glass that breaks the light into bands of color, producing optically complex virtual 3D images that sit at the intersection of painting and sculpture. Lightpaintings can take the form of moveable wall-mounted panels but the most spectacular effects are achieved in large-scale architectural installations. Layers of metallic coating are applied to glass pieces to refract and reflect colors, which becomes the palette to be used as pure chroma or mixed into a wide spectrum of colors. Glass is cut into various sizes and shapes that determine planes of color and other elements that can be used much as in traditional painting or sculpture.
Neon lighting has been used consciously in art, both in individual objects and integrated into architecture.
Many modern art museums include light sculptures and installations in their permanent and temporary collections. The Centre for International Light Art in Unna, Germany is currently the world’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the collection and presentation of light art.
The Light Art Museum in Eindhoven, Netherlands, another museum dedicated to the display of light art, closed on December 5, 2010 due to insufficient funding, but at the Strijp-S complex, one can see the Fakkel by Har Hollands, Daan Roosegaarde’s Crystal as well as part of the light festival GLOW.
Many well-known art museums, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, often have temporary light art exhibits and installations in their galleries.
Light festivals and the smart city LED revolution was driven by outdoor urban light sculpture with low energy LED luminaires. Light artists were able to create new exhibition spaces collectively in the form of light art festivals. These festivals have continued to grow internationally and help to highlight ecological change. This LED low energy movement dates back to the 2009 by the Vivid Smart Light Festival in Sydney. In Singapore, the i Light Marina Bay festival—Asia’s only sustainable light festival—was first hosted in 2010. There are many light art festivals, especially in Europe, including the Signal Festival in Prague and the Ghent Light Festival. Light festivals and LEDS have redefined light art as an art genre.