Into the light

By Fleur Chattillon

Light, as we know it, is seen as an eternal source of life and inspiration; we literally can’t live without it. For those who are religious, God is seen as light. In nature, the sunlight keeps living things alive and gives us vitamin D. It is safe to say light is of great importance in our lives and probably because it is so essential in our world this is seen represented in both Art and photography. A light source in a painting or photograph impacts everything including the character, separation, colours, textures, mood and the story of the image. It’s a key factor in making a painting or pictures a success. We take a look at three great exhibitions that step Into the light with the work on display.

To this day artists and photographers have used the development of light technics in their projects, but also drawn ideas from old technics.

Such as chiaroscuro, which literally means in Italian chiaro, “light,” and scuro, “dark”. It is the technique employed in visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects, within an image.

Self-portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn, ca. 1628, collection Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands

This technic dates out of the renaissance and was mainly used by the artist Masaccio, but later on, a few painters became masters of this technic such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens.

Many of these artists’ most famous paintings were very dark-toned, with areas of highlighted sections as a contrast. This style may seem outdated compared to the colourful contemporary art we often see today. Yet, many modern artists are looking to the old masters as inspiration for creating their own atmospheric, chiaroscuro-style artworks and photographs.

The Watering Place, Peter Paul Rubens, 1768, the collection The National Gallery London

Eugène Leroy is such an artist, With the exhibition ‘The materiality of light’, viewing at the Michael Werner Gallery, London right now. Throughout his long career, Leroy remained deeply committed to classical genres of painting, namely still-lifes, landscapes and portraits. He selected inspiration from a host of European influences, including Rembrandt and Rubens. 

Ciel, Eugène Leroy, ca. 1950

Known for thick, layered paintings that he worked and reworked sometimes for over a decade, his painting was remarkably more about subtraction than addition. Leroy sought to capture the presence or “the trace” of the subject. Light, and how it absorbed and reflected, was his primary concern.

Figure 3 (La violente), Eugène Leroy, 1991

With over 30 works on view at the Michael Werner Gallery, the Materiality of Light, Paintings 1950-1999 exhibition, will provide an extensive overview of the artist’s oeuvre as he explored the effects of seasons, the passage of time and the movement of light.

When photography first arrived it took a lot of the art world, also the importance of the use of light.

Even the word photography derives from the Greek words “photos” meaning light and “graphic” meaning lines or drawing; together meaning “drawing with light”. 

As Trent Parke, one of Australia’s most renowned photographers once said:-

‘I am forever chasing light. The light turns the ordinary into the magical.´

Rue de Faubourg St. Martin, Paris, Tomio Seike, October, 1994

A photographer who also has light as one of his prime sources of inspiration and creation is Japanese Tomio Seike. Primarily known for his black and white photographs, he has also made landscapes in colour.

His sensitive play on light and composition adds a serenity to his images which defines his style and adds beauty to scenes of everyday life. By expertly balancing the abstract and traditional, using only natural light, he manages to capture the quiet moments in life most people fail to notice.

Dried Tulip #2, Tomio Seike, November 2003

These exquisite small format prints further highlight the intimacy of the scenes he captures, drawing the viewer closer to absorbing every detail.

In recognition of Tomio Seike’s long-standing relationship with Hamilton’s Gallery and in celebration of his 80th Birthday, Hamilton has curated an exhibition of the Japanese photographer’s most iconic images: Tomio Seike: Eighty.

Light is not only important for art or photography as well as design or architecture.

In 1993, the French sculptor and designer Odile Mir created La Nef Solaire. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the sculpture, Léonie Alma Mason, architect and granddaughter of Odile Mir – together they founded LOMM Éditions to reissue Odile Mir’s creations asked Thomas Paquet, a photographer, to revisit La Nef Solaire, thus committing himself to the intergenerational dialogue she had started with her grandmother.

La-Nef-1, Thomas Paquet, 2023

The encounter is an immediate match between the three creators and a large number of fascinating ideas arise. Questioning the notions of space, light and time, Thomas Paquet found his alter ego in Odile Mir, and the two artists quickly set to work.

Whether he be inspired by the Nef itself and its constituent elements, the trajectory of the sun and the measure of time, or by the poetry it induced, Thomas Paquet then composes a series of photosensitive pieces and developed works that he makes together, in close collaboration with the artist 50 years his senior.

LOMM-MOTIF2-3, Odil Mir

Through the inexhaustible sources of inspiration that are light and time, and without ever straying from the purity of the geometric forms prevailing both in Odile Mir’s La Nef Solaire and in the furniture by LOMM Éditions, Thomas Paquet created a variety of pieces, using all the techniques he cherishes, from photograms to cut-out pieces, photoengraving’s, silver gelatin prints and cyanotypes. His work here harks back to the very classics of images of light and darkness bought right up to date in our modern world.

Etude-Gnomonique Composition, Thomas Paquet, 2023

These works are shown in the exhibition entitled Rien n’échappe à la lumière” which translated literally means: Nothing escapes the light, featuring the works of this artist and, bringing together architecture, contemporary art, photography and design.

From 9 February to 15 April, the exhibition entitled Eugène Leroy: The Materiality of Light, Paintings 1950-1999, the first comprehensive exhibition of paintings by French artist Eugène Leroy (1910-2000) in the U.K at the Michael Werner Gallery.

From 26 January to 11 march, the exhibition entitled Tomio Seike: Eighty, features a selection of unique, platinum palladium prints and vintage, toned gelatin silver prints at the Hamiltons Gallery.

From 9 March to 15 April 2023, the exhibition entitled “Rien n’échappe à la lumière” (Nothing escapes the light), featuring the works of Odile Mir, Thomas Paquet and Léonie Alma Mason at the Bigaignon Gallery.

If you enjoyed reading Into the light why not read Pay attention 

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