'Some Versions of Light' is a wide-ranging exhibition that explores the medium of light through a variety of artists and movements;
but it still manages to cohere, through its sensitive installation in the newly restored Telephone Repeater Station in Bromptonon-Swale.
The exhibition was inspired by the curator Greville Worthington's early memories of childhood visits to his local church. A cash-strapped parish had to make do with an incandescent light bulb crudely painted red to represent the presence of the consecrated host in the tabernacle. This deification of objects is a recurring theme in the show, reflected in such works as Bill Culbert's Total (1991), where fluorescent tubes are placed within plastic bottles, a contemporary altar to the quotidian.
The 1930s building is a handsome redbrick construction of Classical proportions, and the works either respond to the elegant new gallery conversion or draw the viewer to the secondary spaces. Among the latter, Jo Ta y l o r 's Gossip uses a slide-projector to cast handwritten phrases on to the stairway wall, encouraging viewers to look down as they ascend the stone staircase, while a cut-out in the building's internal wall leads your eye to Simon Cutts' framed neon wall sculpture, spelling out the words 'I prefer the stream of the mountains to the sea' (1971-2004).
The siting of Martin Richman's Pleasure Beach (2001) on the roof of the gallery suggests a continuation of the building's internal staircase. Lit up at night, the acrylic staircase emits an ultraviolet glow, prompting local rumours that a new disco had opened in town. Precisely this misreading and re-reading of the exhibits adds to the show's context.How else do we now view the near-mythical work of Yves Klein, International Klein Blue, IKB (1961), in the same context as, say, Langlands & Bell's Frozen Sky? Klein's patented IKB was invented with the help of chemists by suspending pigment in crystal-clear synthetic resin and compatible solvents, leaving individual particles of colour with their original intensity.
As if to demonstrate his dominant position in the evolution of 20th-century text and neon art pieces, the external wall of the building is adorned with a neon text by Maurizio Nannucci. The light source, neon, was invented in 1920 and Nannucci was one of the first artists (along with Joseph Kosuth) to explore its possibilities to communicate language through art. In contrast to this technical manipulation of light sources, Roger Ackling attempts to manipulate natural rays of light, harnessing the rays of sunlight by using a magnifying glass to burn lines on wood.Each work, all Untitled, records the sun's light as it journeys to the earth.
James Turrell's Ivor Blue has its first viewing at the exhibition. This room-sized installation appears as a simple diagrammatic sketch in the catalogue in contrast to its complex reality - the intangible ethereal glow of combined blue hues.
The exhibition's broad choice of artworks provides evidence to back-up Lßszl¾ Moholy-Nagy's prophetic statement, which is reprinted in the exhibition catalogue but first appeared in the Architectural Forum in May 1939. 'Great technical problems will be solved when the intuition of the artists will direct the research of engineers and technicians, ' said Moholy-Nagy, prediciting new forms of art that are being realised today.
Corinna Dean is a freelance writer