Anthony McCall: Discernible Illuminations

Anthony McCall: Discernible Illuminations

Solid Light Works is the first major UK exhibition of Anthony McCall’s work in over ten years. Housed within galleries seven through to ten of The Hepworth, Wakefield, the visitor immersed in in three new “solid light” installations. With this the UK premier of these works, McCall’s practice of exists in the space where cinema, sculpture and drawing overlap is literally given space to shine. The three works on display exemplify the kind of work for which McCall is best known: large-scale, sculptural, immersive installations in which light is the chief component and of which audiences are an integral component.

As visitors enter the space, the primary immersion is a daunting and somewhat oppressive arrival into pitch darkness. After a short period of time, the eyes adjust to the darkness such that other visitors traversing the corridor that leads to the main space are discernible. Once in the main space, the darkness partly and minimally gives way to incisive beams of white light digitally projected on to transparent screens.

The incisive presentation of the light in the space is discernible because the air in the room is filled with a synthetic haze. The effect here is reminiscent of the projected light in cinemas many years ago when smoking was not prohibited inside public spaces. The projected light as it is received on the screens reveals rotating and transmuting single linear images. These single line projections are clearly, geometrically, the translation of a three-dimensional physical description that has been taken into consideration and technically involved in the programming of the projectors. The purity and starkness of these works is almost overwhelming.

Outside the installations, the visitor may peruse the extensive collections of drawings and designs by McCall that give some indication of his thought process and working practice. From these exhibits the visitor may come to the conclusion that geometrically conical physical descriptions are a significant concern of the artist.

Light is an elemental feature in fundamental human practices and texts as metaphor and allegory across cosmological, moral, spiritual, religious and scientific concerns. Whether as a metaphor for virtue and enlightenment, or as a physical entity to be understood doubly according to wave-particle duality, it stands for positive existence and instantiation. Just as mathematics might be viewed as the poetry of natural philosophy, across human understanding light is always understood relative to a predicate and is subject to being viewed according to an anthropic principal. Anthony McCall’s Solid Light Works, boldly divorces a skewed, purely analytical grasp of the phenomenon from our perspective by being an immersive installation employing the starkest of contrasts.

Daniel Potts

Solid Light Works runs until 3 June. For more information, click here.

1.  Anthony McCall. Face to Face (II) (2013). Installation view, Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, 2014. Photograph by Hans Wilschut.