Light Show is the Hayward Gallery’s latest exhibition, showcasing a fantastic selection of artworks all made from the power of electricity. The show displays sculpture and installation featuring bulbs, strip lights, strobe light, mirrors, projection and more to create a journey of sensory excitement through the gallery.

The journey begins with a Leo Villareal’s 2012 Cylinder II, a giant sculpture of LEDs orchestrated by complex computer programming so that they are constantly in flow, creating different patterns and shapes. The work is an engaging spectacle, for me evoking the beauty and movement of a waterfall or snowfall, whilst also suggestive of the millions of changing lights in a busy city.

The viewer is then lead around the space and presented with a number of instillations that occupy entire side rooms. Around every corner there is another piece of excitement, including a room of complete darkness surrounding a large cone of light inviting you to play with the effects of projection, an eery hospital-like space that surrounds the viewer in stark whiteness, and a series of 3 completely red, blue and green rooms that I got stuck in for most of my visit. The curation of the exhibition makes fantastic use of the Hayward’s exhibition halls, and I was struck by a new appreciation of the space whilst walking round.

At one point we queued for ten minutes to enter a dark room in which the viewer is invited to sit and experience the adaptation over 15 minutes of his or her eyes in front of a large light installation. I must admit that there was no revelation in front of my eyes, so either I was too inpatient, or the execution of this piece has not been so successful.

The exhibition is an investigation into how our psychology responds to light and colour, a display of captivating illusions that play with our perception, and a presentation of artworks that require the viewer’s time and interaction to completely reveal themselves.

Light Show is not only about visual experience - Conrad Shawcross's sculpture is 'a metaphor for the discipline of science'


Some reviews have criticised Light Show for offering little more than an entertainment, a comment that I agree with in-part, as the exhibition does not offer much that is deeply conceptual or philosophical (although a number of the pieces, such as Conrad Shawcross’s sculpture, do discuss interesting ideas). However, I think it positive that this is a rare example of an exhibition that doesn’t present any over-complex or inaccessible ideas, or claim to be something that it is not. Instead it simply presents every viewer with a chance to interact with, enjoy and be excited by contemporary art.

 Light Show continues at the Hayward Gallery until 28 April 2013

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