2 -14 March 2011
Fiat Lux is a site-specific installation harnessing the fluctuations of natural light from the windows in BLINDSIDE’s Gallery Two. The work refers to the stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals, the reductive geometries of 20th century minimalism, and the digital, rectilinear forms of contemporary culture: references which converge in Sophie Knezic’s ongoing exploration of temporality and mutable optic structures.
The heat of the day was not unbearable but it was intense. As I walked, the narrow, cobbled streets of Toledo -at times less than a metre wide- enclosed me in a labyrinth of beige-coloured stone. Eventually I reached the cathedral, its Gothic towers piercing the air with seemingly relentless height. Once inside the air was cool, and the chalky light of the bright day outside was replaced with a muted haze. Several chapels marked out the interior space but it was the unfathomable height of the cathedral that caught my attention, directing my gaze upwards. As I craned my head, my focus on the building’s height shifted to that of its light.
Nestled high in the aerial space beneath the ceiling’s vaulted arches, multiple stained glass windows perforated the stone walls. In rose-patterned discs and rectangles ending in peaked tip, the windows were filled with multi-coloured panels which blazed with unexpected brilliance. Against the backdrop of the pallid stone, the glass windows offered a tantalising glimpse of the numinous, a seductive suggestion of divine illumination.
From a 21st century secular perspective, however, such invocations of divinity are untenable. Without subscribing to spiritual belief, can anything be retrieved from such spectacular incarnations of patterned light? Can the simple qualities of light, when refracted through a transparent coloured prism, offer an experience parallel to the numinous but not of it?
We are exposed to natural light every day, perhaps noticing it more as an index of the weather than for its inherent properties. Natural light is fugitive, in a constant state of flux. It is visible only by virtue of the substance it illuminates: the surface of material things or their reflections, and the positive forms around the outlines of shadow -although even shadow itself is a form of light.
Artificial light supplants the natural, providing uniformity and intensity against the latter’s mutable nature. But electronic light can also be fleeting: LED screens that bark out bullet-point information disappear as rolling text; bar codes marking the prosaic commodities of every supermarket aisle are temporarily registered in coloured light.
Put akin to the stained glass windows of medieval cathedrals, the computer monitors and TV screens of contemporary culture, from cathode lamps and LEDs to plasma cells, are backlit forms of technology. In providing illumination apparently from within, they seem to embody light rather than merely transmit it. Perhaps we could say these are objects which retain an aspect of the numinous, existing on the cusp of the material and immaterial realms. Objects which dissolve into evanescent optical structures, forms of light which radiate briefly then expire.
- Sophie Knezic, 2011