There’s A Mile Of Neon In This Light Painting Brought To Life

If Picasso was a pioneering force in painting with light, then Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans has perfected the art of sculpting it. In his latest installation at the Tate museum in London, Wyn Evans has brought light paintings—made from a combination of moving light and long exposure photography—to tangible, 3D life.

[Photo: Tate Photography/Joe Humphreys]
Forms in Space . . . by Light (in Time) hangs suspended from the ceiling above the grand neoclassical hall that hosts the museum’s Duveen Galleries. It is made from over a mile of neon lighting that swoops and curves into big, brilliant scribbles. Yet look closely (with an explanatory museum placard close by) and there’s order to the luminous chaos: References to Marcel Duchamp works and Japanese Noh theater are hidden within.

To create the sprawling piece, Wyn Evans structured it into three parts, with a single neon ring in the center and three discs reminiscent of the diagrams used to test eyesight coming off of it. The three discs allude to the Marcel Duchamp sculpture, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). The form of the sculpture, which conveys both sweeping motion and precise gesture, was influenced by the stylized movements in Noh theater, which are used to communicate emotion. Parts of the installation feel fluid, while others are truncated into short, sharp lines.

Inside of the delicate tubes that make up the piece are floating neon gasses, adding to the ethereal sense of movement. Just like the 2D light paintings, the sculpture carefully choreographs light to create meaning and clarity—and, in Wyn Evans’s case, frenzied, electric mayhem.