light carries conceptual load in both art and architecture, but the 22 artists showcased in the hayward gallery’s immensely popular ‘light show’ use illumination as a medium and manipulate its peculiarities and nature as such. from experiential installations to intangible sculptures the works explore color, duration, intensity and projection as well as the limits of perception. 

light show at the hayward gallery, london‘rose’ by ann veronica janssensartwork © the artist/DACSimage © linda nylindall images courtesy of hayward gallery

light show at the hayward gallery, london‘model for a timeless garden’ by olafur eliasson, water, pumps, nozzles, stainless steel, wood, foam, plastic, strobe lights, wall mounts and control unitartwork © studio olafur eliassonimage © dimitry baranov


‘model for a timeless garden’ by olafur eliasson uses strobe lighting to illuminate flowing streams of watervideo © southbank centre, hayward gallery  



some works found a new context in the exhibit; olafur eliasson’s ‘model for a timeless garden’ was recreated in the hayward complete with a flashing stroboscopic lamps that immobilize the movement of water. the optical disorientation occurs when the strobe light illuminates the water at a specific frequency, such that the cascade of liquid is visually reduced to a ‘frozen’ droplet thereby producing an ever-changing landscape of impossibly transient forms. other works create a relationship among themselves like the main-level works by leo villareal and david batchelor. the dialogue between the installations emphasizes that light has a profound effect on mental space and the colors that inhabit it. villareal’s ‘cylinder II’ uses 19,600 LED lights to form a matrix of ever-changing shapes and patterns, bolstered by a concentric composition of reflective rods, while batchelor’s ‘magic hour’ refers to a confrontation of synthetic color and darkness in the urban landscape, specifically evident in las vegas. drawing from the city itself, discarded shop signs are arranged and re-lit with a technicolored halo. while one work evokes endlessly changing patterns in waves of phosphorescence and nature, the other reframes a dusk-bound urban phenomena with the appropriation of orthogonal vestiges of city life. all of the works use light to shape and sculpt space while creating a discourse about experience and perception.