Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fractured light: or how I found a rainbow in a car park

Carsten Nicolai, Unicolor

The nature of fractured light has been exercising my mind of late, Fracture being the theme chosen by the members of Prism for next year's exhibition. Which of course is highly appropriate, for what else is a prism but a means of fracturing white light into its constituent colours?

And so my mind has been splintered into rainbow fragments thinking through the possibilities.

At Tate Modern's marvelous Sonia Delaunay exhibition - hurry, hurry, it ends on August 9 and when will you ever again see a patchwork quilt in Tate?  - I stopped in amazement in front of her large Electric Prisms canvases, in which she explores the effects of electric lighting, conjuring up circles of light around the street lamps of foggy Montmartre.

Sonia Delaunay, Electric Prisms, 1914, Tate Modern 

My endless quest to touch a rainbow then drew me to the work of Carsten Nicolai, whose exhibition Time Out - never one to mince words and eschewing asterisks - suggested was "a f***ing masterpiece". The fact that it was on the third floor of an indoor car park in Soho made it all the more enticing. The installation was a long set of screens, with mirrors at right angles either end, so the flashing and changing coloured projections were repeated into infinity (top picture and below). Time Out refers to the intoxicating purity of colour: "It's a little like drifting through all the components of the spectrum." If you can't rush to Brewer Street Car Park by August 2nd you can drift through the spectrum by viewing a video of the artwork here.      

Carsten Nicolai, Unicolor, Brewer Street car park

But back to the possibilities of the theme of Fracture. Taking the sub-theme of fractured light alone, there are not only rainbows, but sunsets and sunrises, the shimmering aurora borealis and the extraordinary brocken spectre - now there's something I'd tremble to encounter.  And how about diamonds, mirrorballs, kaleidoscopes (the name of a patchwork technique), crystal chandeliers, broken mirrors, sequins and glitter?

The brocken spectre                                                    Brocken Inaglory/Wikipedia

    Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia
    H. Pellikka/Wikimedia
How about a piece of performance art for next year's Prism? A dance in a hand-stitched costume covered in real diamonds, shisha mirrors and coloured sequins to the light of a thousand flickering candles? The fire risk would be tremendous, the insurance prohibitive and other exhibitors would fear for the safety of their art, but oh, wouldn't it be glorious.