When a chandelier, pendant or wall light is so beautiful it becomes a sculpture in its own right, is it still lighting or should we call it art? Thanks to the development of high-tech materials and LEDs, lighting is even more of a creative force to be reckoned with. We look at ten designers and artists whose work transcends the craft/art barrier. Open your eyes to the possibilities…
Niamh Barry explicitly describes her work as ‘light sculpture’ – her Fouette chandelier looks like a piece of freestanding art but has LEDs running along all the edges, electrical power passing seamlessly from link to link, while the exquisite bronze vessels on Counterpoise both illuminate and reflect. Her work is about balance, form and movement, and she says, “My work is driven by the desire to create a sense of gender and physicality expressed through line. For me the quality of the line speaks to the viewer and sets the tone and form of every piece. My interest lies in creating light sculptures that cause people to pause and that have a relationship between the viewer, the piece itself and the space it is in.”
French firm Blackbody have a secret weapon up their sleeve – a type of light called an OLED or ‘organic light-emitting diode’. Based on the latest nanotechnology, OLEDs form a luminous surface less than two millimetres thick. Blackbody, who (led by designer Thierry Gaugin) offer a sly humour in many of their works and have created chandeliers that look like glowing spores (Rain), little glowing flowers inside cut glass bells (Belmondo, Anabel) and a curvy pendant worthy of Marie Antoinette called Madame Cloud.
Milan-based Gianluca Pacchioni makes lighting and sculptures from metal, creating objects with the illusion of lightness and movement from the heaviest of materials “Usually when you find yourself in front a piece of iron, you don’t want to touch or approach it. My aim is to make you feel the opposite sensation”. Anemone may look delicate but weighs an astonishing 270kg. Pacchioni also develops techniques to further his art, for example rusting stainless steel to have a rough and smooth side or creating rainbow colours in metal.
Highly collaborative, extraordinarily inventive, Scandinavian design gurus Front have created lighting that is beautiful, seminal and also accessible. They worked with Tom Dixon to create the hugely popular pendant lamp Melt. But for sheer exuberant originality, their Surface Tension lamp takes the biscuit. Created in collaboration with Loligo, the lamp blows a bubble around a central LED light source and then pops, at a rate of about one a minute. By the time the central LED light source burns out after 50,000 hours, the lamp will have had 3 million different globe shades.
The world-renowned Chris Levine is most famous for his ‘hologram’ (actually lenticular) portraits of The Queen and Kate Moss. But he does not consider himself a portraitist: light – particularly light boxes and liquid lasers – is his medium, and he has created installations (most recently) for the city of Melbourne (Molecule of Light). His 2015 exhibition, The Geometry of Trust at the Fine Art Society, showed how light can create an immersive and contemplative experience, working as art, lighting and meditative point. It also shows how important perception can be: his ‘blipverts’ look like simple wall light until your eye scans across them and you suddenly see an angel.
Georgia Scott works with the lightest of materials – paper, wire mesh, kiln-fired glass, fibre optics and LEDs to produce highly organic objects that flow and float. Her clients have ranged from the Institute of Molecular Science via the Royal Academy of Arts to the Brit Awards. Mainly working on commission, her Spike light can be found in The V&A’s permanent collection and further pieces through Fontana Arte.
Portuguese firm Serip have been around since the 1960s but radically changed their focus and design style when they launched their first light collection inspired by nature in 2001. In 2008 they caused a sensation with Mysterious, a radically different style of lighting. In collaboration with glass artists and craftsmen they produce bespoke and off-the-peg glass chandeliers and wall lamps which are wonderfully luxurious, giving the effect of frozen waterfalls, raindrops, falling flowers and more.
Studio Dennis Parren describe themselves as “a multidisciplinary design studio that focuses on using natural and artificial light as a design material.” Their exquisite work frequently draws on the nature of white light, that it is in fact made up of the full spectrum of colours. Their CMYK bulb throws out prismatic shadows, which the studio accessorises with delicate wire sculptures (Up and Wall) that throw out coloured patterns. Milkyway reminds us that we might be lying in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. Invited to create various installations at the Biennale St Etienne in 2015, their works Gradients and Reflections showed how light can be graduated and reflected back in exquisite colors.
Like many of the artists here, Vezzini & Chen show how collaboration can produce wonderful results. Graduating in 2013, Cristina Vezzini and Sheng Tsang Chen were brought together by a shared love of nature. They combine the disciplines of ceramic and glass to create a collection of sculptural lighting pieces that generate a dramatic atmosphere. Radiolaria offers bone china microbial forms which glow inside a tall elegant vessel, while Geo features a glowing ceramic core surrounded by a glass pendant. With Close Up, Vezzini’s bone china seeds sit inside Chen’s handblown container with distorting bubbles. She says, “I collect seeds every where I go and I connect to it my emotion and memories from that specific space and time.”
Moritz Waldemeyer fully straddles the line between lighting, design and art, having trained as an engineer before collaborating with everyone from Ron Arad and Fontana Arte to Hussein Chalayan and Zaha Hadid, not to mention costumes for Rihanna and the London Olympics handover ceremony. Recent projects include By Royal Appointment for Chatsworth (chairs that give you a kingly halo when you sit down) and Ming for Elephant Paname’s Play of Brilliants, interactive, interlocking steel vases in the shape of Ming china. Blue Typhoon features stylised Perspex waves, with lenticular material over the strips of LEDs distorting the light and causing beautiful watery effects.