Light art: From Monet to James Turrell to…

As a person who studied French and lived ever in Paris, everything labelled “French Culture” is pretty attractive to me.

I was very lucky to have visited the Monet exhibition taking place in fall 2010 at the Grand Palais in Paris. It was the only chance to take a glance at all Monet’s paintings accumulated from all over the world. That was the first time that I came to understand impressionism. Museum guide Emmanuelle Rian says the impressionists’ fast strokes, their scenes of ordinary life, and the glimpses they left of unpainted canvas were brand new and brave — “a real revolution in painting.”  I found a series of sunset at the river Seine, with different kinds of “capture of light”. From that moment, I became passionate about the change of light and shadows and mixture with different layers of colors.

Please refer to:

Another miracle happened at a night when I wandered alongside the river Seine, I heared a loundspeaker telling a story of Bible. I followed the sound and found myself in front of the Notre-Dame de Paris. The amazing light show took me immediately into a place like a paradise.

Now, I decide to connect Monet to light art whose medium is light. With help of jhave, I came to know an American artist primarily concerned with light and space,  James Turrell. His immersive work show us how we see light in varying contexts, both natural and created. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory.

Turrell’s medium of choice, light, makes his work both radical and rooted deep in the past. He traces his artistic antecedents back into prehistory. These include the creators of a 5,000-year-old mound at Newgrange in Ireland, who made sure the sun’s rays would shine directly into the passageway at the winter solstice.

Also, that reminds me of the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s work the Republic. The analogy of sun links to our perception of the world. I wonder whether the light art can be rooted in other philosophy…

I am more interested in light show than Turrell’s works, because the former is more dynamique and exciting.

As for the further research, I would like to read light art history and search more light installation artworks. But I am still confused about the final objective of my research and how to connect Monet to new media art.





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2 thoughts on “Light art: From Monet to James Turrell to…”

  1. Connecting your interest in Monet’s “revolution in painting” to the current ongoing revolution in digital media materials and techniques for working with light could be one path you take.

    Since Turrell seems too static for you (which is strange since paintings are much more static than most of his light installations — I suspect his work is too abstract for you, your preferences are for representational works), and you like the projection mapping on the Notre Dame: consider augmented architecture projection mapping in the context of impressionism.

    Why is it humans love to see light move?
    Is there an implication of motion in Monet?
    Is that implication converted into motion in digital media?

    Consider the branding around Monet, the conversion of his identity from a human into a genius, someone who made seen what we all saw. Consider the anonymity of the youtube video you posted: who made that light show?

    Or tell me what questions really interest you.

    Ps. Put a link and source to the quotation about Turrell

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