An Artist’s First Solo Show Bends Our Perception Of Light

Paul Cocksedge designs lamps that aren’t lamps and other plays on light and expectations.

To say that Paul Cocksedge designs lamps would be a little like saying Jony Ive made an app. “Light is so mysterious in so many ways. It’s unpredictable and hard to control,” Cocksedge says. “If you see light as a material, like I do, it’s fascinating to collaborate with it.”


The London-based designer has his first solo exhibition, Capture, at the Friedman Benta gallery in New York, and it includes a table, a light installation–and something that can only be described as a piece of light. As Cocksedge puts it, “the lamp isn’t quite a lamp.” It wasn’t created to live as a piece of industrial design in the same way his recent lamp for Flos does. “When you look into the lamp there’s nothing apart from just light,” he tells Co.Design. “It’s a pretty special experience. You don’t see where the light is coming from.”

His designs play with expectations again and again. Cocksedge says that his goal for the bronze table, which weighs half a ton, was to create something that looks like it might fall over. “It’s not a logical starting point,” he acknowledges. “Then it was kind of an intense process of calculation.” The result is a hardy, infallible piece of steel–with no legs.

The last piece, White Light, uses thousands and thousands of colors on the ceiling that, when merged, cancel each other out. It’s a sensory-numbing look at how light behaves. It also makes sense in an exhibit opening in a city at the tail end of a season all about stripping or amplifying human senses (seen best in James Turrell’s Guggenheim exhibit, or at MoMA’s Rain Room).

Cocksedge explains it simply: “It’s exciting to go into a space, to go travel, to go to different countries.” And it’s something that happens in micro formats all the time. “As technology moves forward, the new iPhone is released, people get excited about that new experience. It’s what makes us move forward.”

Capture is up at the Friedman Benda gallery in New York City until October 12, 2013.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.