I am by nature a curious man. An idea, a vision, a thought, a hypothesis precedes all of my works. My predilection to light as a form for visual expression has started at the end of the 1970’s. A vision has sent me on this trek. Questions like how can I pass into, pass through a form;
how can I visualize this from many viewpoints simultaneously?
In 1895 Röntgen discovered the wavelength of light or rather energy that was able to pass through the human body. (Today, these are called X-rays). Around this time, Cezanne started to paint transparent surfaces to find the hidden dimensions of forms. The concurrence may be incidental, but it is more probable that the question and discovery was imminent. Today it is no different; the parallels in sciences and arts can be traced throughout history. Similar questions arise at about the same time, and despite the difference in the manifestations of expression, reflect a spirit of the age (Zeitgeist).
Franz Marc prognosticated the future some twenty years after Röntgen’s discovery in the following thought-provoking way. (Of course, we may have reservations about his notions).
Art in the future will be a reincarnation of science according to the latter’s progressed stage. We will destroy and then rebuild unmanageable matter at our will. Time is not far when we will pass through matter as if it was air. Matter is energy that presently resists man, but the time will come when we will be able to transcend the observed world completely to better understand it.
We know today that his visions became a reality with ultrasound, Computer Tomography, Holography and the like. The question is what Franz Marc’s words mean in a visual context? Artists sensitive to science and technology are still curious of scientific cognition problems and their applications. If we only consider recent artistic endeavour, we can see that more and more artists turn to the application of light, matter, energy, laser, the hologramme that was discovered by Dénes Gábor, acoustics, multimedia; in other words towards dematerializing matter.
Question: do we need light to understand something and express it visually or not?
At first hearing this question, even the formulation seams absurd as the answer is so obviously yes. We do not see anything in the absence of light.
Or perhaps we do? Perchance we were a bit rash with the answer.
Let us take a look at the question more closely and dive into our memories. Can we see our dreams or nightmares or notions present in our minds? Can the blind or visually impaired see forms or colours?
2. Visible and Invisible Light (external vision, inner vision)
One thing is certain. Our visual perception is biologically determined. This means given our senses are healthy and intact the outside world and its events can be perceived and understood by all of us. The stimulus from the outside events can be understood and perceived but will show differences from person to person depending on genetics, cultural heritage and erudition.
For visual artists the perception of stimulus from the outside world (external vision) is only the first step in the formation of a possible visual reaction.
The varied stimuli from outside and the already present, many times unconscious information provide the raw material for a visual artist to visualize a given problem. This latter is called inner vision and is available to anyone (ie. blind etc.). Inner vision is personal and cannot be observed by an outside observer. The artist’s job is to rearrange and reorganize the stimuli. To do this a great deal of sensitivity, sophisticated inner vision and professional know-how are required. Without dreams and visions creation is unthinkable.
With the above said, I simply wanted to demonstrate the symbiosis of visible and invisible light that is essential to anyone and especially to someone who creates visual things.
This means that we need visible and invisible light (external and inner vision) to be able to create new entities.
As our knowledge widens about light that is both matter and energy, newer and newer possibilities emerge in visual arts to an exponential extent. Let us simply consider the large number of artificial light sources becoming available in the past decade.
The availability and implementation of these new sources increased the visual expression possibilities with light manifold.
For this reason, today the attention of many fine artists, designers and architects are directed to implementing light and light sources in a creative way.
Within the diverse visual genre even the visual creation field is so great that only the main implementation tendencies in fine arts will be mentioned below.
3. Uses of light
– Light as a tool
– Light as matter
– Light as a medium
– Combined Light
– Light as a tool
The use of light as a tool is to emphasize, expose something or to create a certain atmosphere just to name some possibilities. In this context, it entails lighting an object, a situation or surroundings (painting, sculpture, building, room etc.).
We all know that ever since mankind exists on the Earth light was always central in our lives. Plain and simple, we couldn’t exist without it. At the dawn of mankind the Sun, the fire were shrouded in mystic until we understood their basic principles and natures. Builders of Stone Henge, the pyramids (be them Egyptians or South Americans) looked at the Sun as their God and mystified it.
The use of light and light sources started already in the first emerging societies. Later, personal and societal functions diversified and multiplied; demand arose for newer and newer light sources and their deliberate implementation. The temple and church windows, Rembrandt’s paintings and the lighting of the buildings inside all reflect elaborated use of light.
– Light as matter
The idea to consider light as matter came about when the main principles of colour mixing were discovered in the 19th century. The impressionists could create all hues by placing suitable amounts of the monochromatic paints close to each other. Their colours were yellow, blue and red, and their method acted as light subtraction. Today the method of addition is in use with the colours green, blue and red to produce the millions of hues. Both methods gave the opportunity for artists to use light not only as a tool but as matter in creating forms and spaces.
– Light as a medium
Light can serve to transmit information and to create a certain virtual world. It is the instrument and material also of the medium to visually express ideas. Our thoughts couldn’t be visualized, become perceivable without film, video, LED panels etc. At the same time, the forms, spaces and situations created by these instruments can be seen as the creator-determined matter.
It is almost like these mediums allow the use of combined light. Yet, they are so special that they should be distinguished.
– Combined Light (Light combinations)
From diverse natural and artificial sources light combinations can come about or with any combination of the methods listed above.
Depending on the event, be it a theatre play, a pop concert or olympic games, we can see various uses of light combinations according to the given choreography and goal. The creator must take into account a number of others factors besides light in these cases. However, an easier possibility to implement light combinations is when the arist’s object is light and light forms the work itself.
4. The role of light in my works
When I first started working in a field concerning light around the late 1970’s, it had little to do with actual light. The problems that drew my attention and the questions that I wanted to answer were about how one could create spaces or paintings that could be permeated physically or virtually. How could I pass through a human body or the walls of a building? The realization of this vision seemed completely impossible and hopeless back then.
My first such work was born in 1981 when I was on a one-year scholarship from ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) in New York. At the time, New York was the centre of visual art. The frequenting of the opening exhibitions every two to three weeks presented the best vocational course to me. The city was very inspirational. The city and nature itself, the woods provided the key to the question stated above.
My ideas came to being physically in 1984 when Márta Kovalovszki and Péter Kovács art historians from the Székesfehérvári Csók István Képtár asked me to present a retrospective exhibition.
In the largest room of the museum I had built my first environment on approximately 300 square metres. The installation included a 12 minute long film, light and sound multimedia program operated by a Commodore 64 computer. At that time in Hungary, there were no user friendly personal computers or video equipment. No state of the art technology, not even the Commodore could be imported as these were COCOM listed meaning that it could not be brought into socialist states (like Hungary). Despite the ban, I brought one with me from abroad as I needed one (I still have that Commodore tucked away).
This installation was very important for me as I found an alterative to express the permeability problem in a novel visual way. As I later learned from authentic sources, this approach was both domestically and internationally new. Projecting pictures or motion pictures onto objects inside or outside spaces with modern techniques has become a genre since then.
The installation was made up of 6 metre tall white and black narrow pyramids representing buildings and trees. Three 16mm projectors from three different directions projected the same motion picture of New York onto the walls and pyramids simultaneously giving the feeling of a fastly pulsating metropolis, the throbbing and crowding. Four different forms were used; the white pyramids were the living and open forms with light emanating at their edges. The second type were both white at one side, black at another side representing peeling or exfoliation. The third type were in pieces and black meaning deterioration of houses or trees. The fourth type were made of mirrors representing a non-terrestrial dimension, transubstantiation into another realm that restuctured the main attributes of things. The installation was meticulously and elaborately prepared and designed. Regardless, the motion of visitors, the film and sound combined resulted in an unexpected and unpredictable new visual experience. The unpredictability (that I did expect and hope for beforehand) brought about a designed chaos, deconstruction, a metaphysical effect completely confounding the viewer; reflecting reality in this way.
The installation was not simply motion picture nor a painting nor a sculpture nor interior design nor traditional installation but something else I called Space Kaleidoscope.
In the same year, Katalin Nérai, director of the Kunsthalle Budapest invited this and two additional, connected installations of mine to be shown in the institution led by her. The Triptihon, as it was called, provided a 40 minute program to viewers. (A record number of audience had seen the show; the 20 thousand people who had seen the installations was unheared of at the time).
These installations were followed by newer and newer ones with different topics and technical implementations in Norway, Germany, Turkey and Hungary.
The installations had one common lesson that I share here for those embarking with similar projects. One needs a lot of work, money, obsession and a speck of insanity to accomplish the planned exhibitions.
The programmed environments propelled me toward newer and newer works that eventually led to newer and newer questions and the Polyphonic Visual Space concept. My curiosity with light went beyond projecting images on objects and spaces. New questions were to be answered.
Is it possible to perceive the same visual information at night as at daytime, and how this could be done, if at all?
The basic principle of visual expression is trivial; it has to be seen by the observer. This makes light imperative.
Without light (as our biological capabilities do not allow it) we cannot perceive outside visual stimuli at present. (For inner vision actual light is not needed as our imagination is at work).
The observable light spectrum seems evident. All of us with healthy sight can see it. But how can I demonstrate colours and forms in the dark? The whole spectrum of light determined by physicists was known, my job was only to find the most suitable one for me. I chose ultraviolet. It came with great surprises over the thirty years I have been using it. At first, my paintings, sculptures and environments completely transformed and gained a spiritual quality. Later, I started to utilize this quality deliberately. In this way, I solved two problems at once. My works were visible in luminous and also in dark conditions with different visual and spiritual aspects. In the dark the paintings, the sculptures and the installations created a floating effect in the viewer.
The new light sources like LED and lasers presented me with novel methods to use light besides projecting and UV light. In my works I use light according to my concept as a tool, as material or a combination of these.
My starting point of allowing viewers to pass through forms remained as I could only solve the problem partially by applying form segments, so I continued the research and experimentation.
Three dimensional programmable and interactive laser animation
More than thirty years passed by before I could draw nearer to my original goal. I found a new way to make a form permeable. My research resulted in a completely transparent and inert liquid solution and equipment that makes lasers visible. Laser light can be manipulated and formed as matter; this implementation is entirely new in the world. It also allows for simultaneous multi viewpoint.
The first generation was shown at the Kinetca Art Fair in London. The two dimensional line forms can be transformed into three dimensions to be viewed from all angles (programmable laser animation). It allows the user to create a three dimensional space from a programmed two dimensional computer image. The equipment can be made in any conceivable size and shape from current materials. It can be used inside or outside; does not need special maintenance or care and is easy to use.
The improved versions provide greater form shaping possibilities, are interactive; meaning that the user can directly change the settings, programme at the premises.
The device (kinetic light sculpture) increased my curiosity further that led to a subsequent question.
What happens to a form if the earthly reference system changes to another reference sytem, a hyperbolic one for instance? Will the form show the same attributes or will it change?
What visual interactions come about due to the change?
I will try to demonstrate the question with a simple example. Measuring time on the Earth applies only in earthly conditions; if we leave the Earth in a space vehicle then our time may differ from the earthly time; we will be in a different reference system. To be able to communicate between the two reference time frames it is necessary to synchronise these. The same principle is true of a form, a space or a thought when the reference system changes. The different reference systems all have their own truths.
The above questions motivated my laser installation in the Synagogue in Eger titled Light Travel in 2012. It’s a well known fact that lasers cannot be seen in bright conditions until they hit and get reflected on an obstacle. Keeping this in mind, I set to work. My objective was to prove the occuring changes, the blowing to pieces, the annihilation and complete rearrangement of the same form in different reference systems, providing an analogy to the changes in the Universe.
I built 2 metre by 60 by 60 cm pillars partly made of transparent glass. The space enclosed by the glass was filled with transparent forms and materials. The pillars themselves were placed at an equal distance from each other so that the laser lights were evenly dispersed among them. The pillars were in two rows, each row containing six pillars that could be rearranged. The rows were projected by laser projectors. At the end of the rows a mirror was placed that turned light by 90 degrees, so the light travelled in a U-path. Between the mirrors, in the middle of the U-turn a three dimensional amorf aluminum form was placed that burst the incoming light from the two sides. The projectors each showed a ten-minute preprogrammed animation. The result overwhelmingly convinced me of my hypothesis. The laser was invisible in the rows between the pillars, bounced on the forms inside the pillars, visualized and changed according to the forms within, then without changing, again to disappear until reaching the amorf form at the U-turn that dispersed the light in all directions; creating unpredictable light effects. The improved versions of the installations were exhibited at Gallery A22 in the spring of 2015.
In my works I always chose the most suited equipment, devices and materials according to the visions and thoughts to be visualized. I know that the above described is only one possibility among the many, but I think it is a viable one. For me at least; and I enjoy it.