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5 Artists Working With Light
Art that sparkles in the dark
Art Stuff 14 Nov 2022

December is here and it’s the time of year where we’re allowed to go to town with decorations, glitter and fairy lights. Who doesn’t love something that glows in the dark? As we all know, light is very important for artists. For centuries artists have been praised for their ability to work with light and, in the 21st century, contemporary artists are playing with light on a whole new level. Where we might used to think of light in terms of the ability to highlight and cast shadows in paint, now artists are using actual lights to make work. Want to know who those artists are? Let us tell you! 

Tracey Emin

Image via @wolfgryzinski

Who doesn’t love a Tracey Emin neon? Dreamy, romantic, glow-in-the-dark, and often wrapped in a heart – they have a softness to them that the world is obsessed with. Emin’s text-focused neon works are usually tender love letters that touch the soul. Perfect for the most magical time of year. 

Bruce Nauman

Image via @lightart_museum

Bruce Nauman is probably best known for his work with light, which he started working with in 1965. Like Emin, Nauman works with neon, incorporating both textual and figurative elements. He has often likened his light-work with signs, acknowledging the influence of consumerism and the artworks’ likeness to advertising. His neons have also been used to comment on identity, politics and sexuality.

Olafur Eliasson

Image via @studioolafureliasson

Olafur Eliasson is often praised for work that draws attention to the state of our planet. Using natural elements, his work has made use of water, air and light. Often using the weather as a medium, he is also an environmentalist, with perhaps one of his best known installations being Room For One Colour, a corridor lit by yellow light. Eliasson continues to use bright lights in his artwork, and he has also created lamps. Together with Frederik Ottesen, he launched Little Sun in 2012, a social enterprise that produces solar powered lamps providing light to communities without access to electricity. The profits from the Little Sun lamps are distributed across ten African countries. 

teamLab

Image via @teamlab

teamLab is famous for its use of light. The international art collective comprises a whole host of individuals including artists, programmers, mathematicians and CG animators, so it should come as no surprise that their work is so impressive. Seeking to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology and the natural world, teamLab works to transcend boundaries in a beautiful, technological way. Their work is immersive, taking over museums and galleries, and is powered by EPSON digital technology. The collective shows no signs of stopping any time soon, having created their own museums, tea houses and now they are even set to digitize a Japanese garden!

Chila Burman

Image via @chilaburman

Chila Burman caught our attention when she recently covered the facade of London’s Tate Britain with lights in celebration of Diwali. The mixed-media artist combines her Indian roots with popular culture, and has a thing for working with shiny things. Besides lights, she has worked with glitter, sequins, jewellery and ancient artefacts. Her takeover of the Tate is titled Remembering A Brave New World and consists of Hindu deities and Bollywood posters, as well as a glowing ice cream van, a third eye and the Om symbol.

Text Lizzy Vartanian

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