Land and light … and the magic of both

I have been thinking a good deal lately about light. Not only the way it shifts and changes continually, but it’s physical properties, and the connection between light and time on both the immediate scale (a 24 hour period shifting from dark to light and back) and the cosmic scale (star light, moon light, lightning, the mind-numbing distance that a light-year is). 

These musings have come about for a number of reasons.

I am incorporating more and more photographic work into my practice in the last year or so, and so I am increasingly conscious of the technical elements around photography, and the light that I want to capture in the images I make. So it’s practical need as well as aesthetics in this case … and the realization that I have a massive amount to learn about photography and about light.

Living in Halifax for the last year, I have become very aware of how different the light is here than in Alberta – and how my own perception of space have been informed by growing up and living on the Prairie. The light here on the East Coast is far more subtle, incredibly nuanced … I know there are people who have lived out here for many years and complain about how unremittingly grey it can be at times… but it’s anything but constant. Even on the most drab winter day, the light changes constantly; shaped by fog, by rain, by snow, by the odd break in the clouds.  It really struck me this past winter; I am so used to the harsh simplicity of the Prairie light: brilliant blue skies that tell you how breath-suckingly cold it is outside, and how blinding walking in fresh snow can be. Leaden skies that produce the crispest whitest snow.

I’ve just got through reading a brilliant book by Ben Tufnell, called Land Art. It traces the history and variety of land art in the US, to the UK and Europe. Really fascinating stuff, and the fact that the work addresses the variation and methodologies in the UK and Europe is a big plus for me; the approach taken by several artists – Goldsworthy, Long, and Fulton in particular – appeals to my interest not only in ideas of transience, but also to my overall desire to ‘tread lightly’ in what I do as an artist and a human. This is all a preamble to the section of the book in which Tufnell discusses Turrell’s Roden Crater, a massive project that has been under construction since the late 1970’s in the Painter Desert in Nevada. This work is utterly amazing; the way Turrell works with the sky and all available forms of light is sheer genius.  To give you some idea:
James Turrell – Goldstein Skyspace/Roden Crater Project from Rindermulch on Vimeo.

Really quite magical, both in scale and execution. I would go there, absolutely, if it is ever open to the public.


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