Housed at the ACMI in Melbourne, Light: Works from Tate’s Collection will premiere on 16 June and run until 13 November, as part of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.
Spanning 200 years of art history including painting, photography, kinetic art, installation, and the moving image, the exhibition features 70 works from the Tate museum that depict light in different ways; lending fascinating insight into how humans conceive of, and interact with, this “elemental force.” (ACMI.)
To learn more about the exhibition, we sat down with curator and writer Laura Castagnini, who has over a decade of experience working in visual art institutions across London and Melbourne.
LCA: Could you tell us a little bit about the exhibition?
In a nutshell, Light: Works from Tates collection traces the history of the way artists have used light as both subject and material over the last 200 years. The exhibition begins in the 18th century with earlier paintings by J.M.W Turner and takes the audience on a journey through the 19th and 20th century until today, with sections on Impressionist painting, Bauhaus photography, light sculptures, and installations. Dotted throughout this history are contemporary artworks, which serve to draw out thematic connections.
The show has so far been to China, Korea, and has just arrived in Australia to open next month.
LCA: Let’s draw our attention to the exhibition’s thematic focus- why light? What inspired this collection, and who’s behind it all?
Light was curated by Kerryn Greenberg, and was born primarily out of an art-historical interest. The Tate has one of the biggest art collections in the world, and Kerryn was interested in looking as light as a kind of elemental force, but also how various connections could be drawn across time and geography through this one theme.
Another focus of this collection is to look at light as a form, but also as a subject and a material in itself; with some artists trying to depict light, but others that have actually taken light as a material to do this. Whether that is through a volcano erupting, various diagrams, or sculptures in ways that refract light and reflect it throughout the room in different ways… It’s all about probing this bigger question: what is light? It’s all around us, but it’s also very hard to explain what it looks like. It’s ephemeral, and immaterial, but at the same time, it’s literally the way we see!
LCA: The ACMI stands for the Australian Centre of the Moving Image; will this exhibition be tailored to the museum’s focus on… moving images? Can viewers expect to interact with any of the works on display?
The exhibition will be a revised version of what we saw in Korea and China; reinterpreted for ACMI’s audience. This will be done through the public program, which looks at collaboration with liquid architecture, a magic lantern show, Australian commissions, and films and conversations that are relevant to the Australian context. Whilst you don’t physically touch the works themselves, the collection is interactive in the sense that you as a viewer make the work. Because without an audience, the work doesn’t exist.
Much of the work inherently lends itself to the ACMI because of its connection to cinema and moving images. For example, we’re showing a work by Liz Rhodes’ work, Light music from 1975; one of the first examples of what we call Expanded Cinema. In this work, a musical score is projected onto a space through which the spectator walks, and as a result, creates the work itself as well as the sounds that correlate to the images you see. Another example of this is a 1969 light installation by James Turrell, Raemar Blue. When you walk into the room you’re bathed in blue, and become part of the infinite and immersive work.
LCA: For those interested who can’t make it down to Melbourne: is there any way they can still experience the collection?
I feel that you can’t fully experience the show online as you have to see a lot of the works in the flesh in order to appreciate them! However, there will still be access to documentation, images, and texts on the website.
Light: Works from Tate’s collection will run at the ACMI in Melbourne from June 16 until November 13.
For more information about times and prices, head to the following website: https://www.acmi.net.au/whats-on/light-works-from-tates-collection-exhibition/