10 Illuminating Light Art Pieces

Many artists and photographers have been interested in the interaction between light and the real world. The reason for some, is simply that without light, life wouldn’t exist, and this stark reality provides a strong source of inspiration. Recently, with the increase in smart technology and push to save the planet, the way light affects us has become big news again, which is an interesting avenue for contemporary artists. As light is a universal, this means the art work it produces is more accessible and engaging for a wider public, and can make people consider how light can affect a space, big or small.

Here we have some examples of exhibits and installations, some of which you can still go and see today.


‘Infinity Mirrored Room’, Yayoi Kusama

Using 75 coloured LED bulbs which were set to flicker and pulse, along with a room with mirrored walls, Kusama created an immersing installation which seemed to display an infinite universe, despite only being as big as a walk-in wardrobe. The exhibit clearly connected with the public, with 2000 people queueing every day for only 45 seconds in the room. This was helped by it’s popularity online, especially on Instagram, where several photos were posted and circulated everyday.

‘Light is Time’, CITIZEN and DGT

In April 2014, this installation, created by Japanese watch brand CITIZEN, Paris-based architecture firm DGT and Yutaka Endo of Luftzug, was created by suspending 80,000 main plates of watches and illuminating them from above. The light reflected onto other plates, creating a mesmerising, insular space, designed to emphasise the way that, without light, there wouldn’t be time and to bring new analogue and digital time back to their roots.

‘Light in Water’, DGT

Although this premiered in Milan in 2011, it has been revamped and is currently being displayed in the Éléphant Paname Art and Dance Centre in Paris, France. The basis is 16 slotted tubes with holes in them, which individually drip 60 drops of water per second. LED light tubes contained a ‘lighting-time control’ lasting seven microseconds, which matched the speed of the falling water to illuminate a single point of light. Similar to ‘Light is Time’, this exhibit is about the necessity of light to people’s lives.

Rashad Alakbarov

Over several years, Alakbarov has used lights, everyday objects and shadows to create immaterial paintings and images. By angling the light a certain way and using suspended objects, such as fragmented coloured glass or water bottles, a complex image of landscapes or a portrait is created.

‘Scenes’, Barry Underwood

Through a combination of LED lights and other luminescent material, Underwood tries to capture the hidden potential of ordinary landscapes, and uses space and shadow to place emphasis on whatever object he’s chosen.

Pulse Room’, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

This instillation uses it’s human viewers to create the exhibit. 300 incandescent bulbs are suspended from the ceiling in uniform distribution, with a control panel at the front of the room. If hands are placed on the control panel, the first light in the sequence begins flickering in time with the person’s heart rate. Once another person places their hands on the panel, the next bulb records their pulse, and so on. Although this debuted in 2006, the exhibit has been moving around exhibitions since, and last year, in 2014, was in Montreal.

‘Scattered Light’, Jim Campbell

Using custom electronics, 2000 LEDs enclosed in standard bulbs, wire, and steel, Campbell created an outdoor piece in Madison Square Park which gave the appearance of figures moving as the lights flickered and viewer’s perspective shifted. The figures were based on people moving through Grand Central Station, in contrast to the calm pace of the park. This piece challenged people’s depth perception as well by placing a 2-D image onto a 3-D medium.

‘CLOUD’, Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett

Displayed originally in Calgary, Canada, Brown and Garrett used 1000 working lightbulbs on pull chains, along with 5000 donated, burnt out lightbulbs, to create an interactive art piece. By pulling on the chains, the light flickers and creates a thunder-storm like effect, refracting through the broken bulbs. The piece has moved around the world for over two years and in Chicago, a permeant Cloud ceiling was installed in the Progress Bar in 2013. The piece is made up of LEDs put into 15,000 re-appropriated incandescent lights with added motion sensors so the light moves with the people in the bar.

‘Face Britain’, Buckingham Palace

In 2012, Buckingham Palace broke the Guinness World Record for the most artists collaborating on one installation. 200,000 artists, aged between 4 and 16, all created self-portraits, which were then made into 32 animated mosaics, including portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. These were projected onto the front of the palace as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and show the versatility of light when creating art pieces.

‘Time is a Dimension’, Fong Qi Wei

This photographer pieced together multiple pictures of the same scene from different times of day. This was an attempt to bring in the fourth-dimension of time into his work, to recreate the scene and show how natural light can manipulate how a space looks over time


Further Resources

Many of these artists have their own websites explaining more about their work and how and why it was created: 

Yayoi Kusama:

Rashad Alakbarov:

Barry Underwood:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer:

Jim Campbell:

Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett:

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