Ksenija Orelj and Sabina Salomon
Turn the Light On, it's Dark

The answer to the question of why an exhibition of light could be: because wherever we go we are surrounded by photons, intangible and minuscule light units that make things visible and evoke the feeling of infinite space.

The transcendental experience of light permeates the history of philosophy and theology as a self-explanatory constant. In addition to the fact that culturally and anthropologically it bore the meaning of good and sacred, the contemporary age brought about a new scientific discipline, neuroaesthetics, that explores the effect of light on the human psyche, explaining how light in its forms (flickers, flashes, etc.) stimulates an aesthetic experience.

Experiments in visual art were often triggered by the physical propositions of light. Its specialty lies in the compatibility with elements of air, water, and fire that support it, while only earth and solid matter manage to tame and delimit it, and enclose it in a casing.

In art, light can be encountered at two points – at the time of the existence of natural light in which materials display or use its effects (stained glass art in medieval churches and paint in painting) and the relatively new use of artificial light thanks to the invention of electric energy and its application in everyday life.

The development of light as a medium in the true sense of light-emitting objects (bulbs, neon, colored lights, plexiglass) can be traced throughout the 20th century when scientific accomplishments enabled its extensive use. One of today's light theorists, Peter Weibel1, believes it to be a medium that announced the modern age, especially because it helped art reach intangibility since the light in its form is non-material and intangible. In short, there are several means of the utilization of light in interaction with other media, which are still interesting to artists today:

– light and motion. The connection was established in sculpture and painting between the two world wars (constructivism, the Bauhaus, Orphism, kinetic art, art madi, spazialismo, New Tendencies), noticeable in this exhibition in the works of both pioneers like Aleksandar Srnec and contemporaries like Ivana Franke, Davor Sanvincenti, Silvo Šarić, and Bojan Štokelj.

– light and sound. In the second half of the 17th century, Isaac Newton discovered that both light and sound are electromagnetic waves of similar physical characteristics. The application of light and sound in visual art coincided in the 1920s and 1930s, stimulated by the use of electric power in everyday life. From a historical distance, this event reminds us of the revolutionary consequences of the use of digital technology, i.e. Internet and personal computer in the 1990s. These guidelines are present in the works of Dalibor Martinis, Zdravko Milić, and Nika Radić.

– light and shadow. Art has adopted light variations in the form of reflections, refractions, and gradations, starting from the shadow theatre and the invention of camera obscura to the experiments of historical avantgardes and their echoes in the post-war years, visible in this exhibition in the works of Aleksandar Garbin, Goran Petercol and Silvo Šarić.

– light as projection. lt appears as a constituent part of the electronic image in the film and video medium, visible in the examples of Alen Floričić and Dalibor Martinis.

– light as a lightbox. lt developed from a need for light in the medium of painting, bas-relief, and objects in the avant-garde period, which brought the phenomenon of lightbox and motion picture (video, film) to the screen in the 1960s. This exhibition presents it through the works of Davor Sanvincenti, Damir Stojnić, and Goran Škofić.

– light in installations. In addition to reflecting material, plexiglass, and metal, avant-garde artists in the 1930s experimented with the light bulb and neon light on painting, bas-relief, and sculpture, which continued with the installation medium and use of new materials (argon, fluorescent tube, LED, etc.). The installation authors presented at this exhibition are lvana Franke, Viktor Popovic, Bojan Štokelj and Mirjana Vodopija.

Most works that deal with light cannot be strictly delineated and categorized as particular art forms because quite often they feature multimedia approaches. The exhibition presents artists that have primarily and continuously pursued light, as well as those who practice it less often and in a broader range of experiments within the field of visual art.

Viktor Popović

Viktor Popovic's (Split, 1972) works have from the very beginning been related to the exploration of the sculpture medium and the possibility of transferring two dimensions in a spatialized and (in)tangible field where the expected interpretations of the utilized materials play with the determination of their boundaries in relation to the display space. In terms of accumulation and serial inventory of industrially manufactured materials, in total impersonal arrangement, they are similar to minimalist and conceptual principles. A game of adopting and displacing everyday objects and inversion of their meanings and attributions competes with routine habits of observing and physical reaction to the perceived phenomena. Since 2005, light has become an important element in that. lt appears in different shapes, as a spatial image, word(s), and object, always executed as cold and distant light in the shape of Fluo or argon pipes. Light fixtures are sometimes exposed to their naked form and sometimes covered by metal profiles. In both cases, the meeting points with found environment additionally determine the direction and spreading of light. Weight and ease, immateriality and hardness, fluidity and termination are some of the ontological and media pairs that Viktor explores, combining a serious reflection of art with humor and nonsense. Effects of curiosity stem from the overall congealed aesthetics like a cold shower, bringing today's alienation and anxiety to awareness.
  1. Light Art from Artificial Light, editors: Peter Weibel, Gregor Jansen, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, Germany, 2006.
Group exhibition catalog preface

Turn the Light on, It's Dark

Gallery of Multimedia Cultural Center, Split, Croatia
May 16 – 30, 2012

Ksenija Orelj and Sabina Salomon