New Delhi: Jantar
Mantar, the 18th century architectural observatory in Delhi, and
Nelson Mandela's Freedom Towers in Soweto in South Africa made a
connection with light this week when Patrick Rimoux illuminated
the ancient astronomical lab with psychedelic light sculptures.
The multi-coloured astro-sculptures "Luminosity" at the
400-year-old Jantar Mantar was an Indo-French arts collaboration
for the ongoing BonJour Festival in India.
"I draw my inspiration from Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi,"
the avant garde French light artist, who has exhibited around the
world, told IANS.
Rimoux, 55, had designed the light towers commissioned by Nelson
Mandela in 2005 at Kliptown in Soweto in Johannesburg in memory of
South Africa's freedom struggle.
Rimoux said he "spent six years working for Nelson Mandela in
Soweto, designing the light art installation where Mandela and the
Congress of the People had signed the freedom charter beginning
the battle to end apartheid in 1955".
"Mandela's incredible energy even while in jail inspired me.
Johannesburg was special because it was there that all the South
African civil right icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and
Walter Sisulu had spent time," Rimoux told IANS.
Describing the Freedom Towers, Rimoux said "the nine vertical
towers, each 18 metres high, glow with nine colours at sundown".
"Each tower reflects the nine states of South Africa. Earlier,
South Africa had five states but after the abolition of apartheid,
the number went up to nine," Rimoux said.
Light sculptures, a new age installation genre, are fluid shapes
that melt and merge into each other on flat solid surfaces.
Artists like Rimoux map the surfaces at least a year in advance
and then visualise the imagery to gel with the structure. The
digital imagery is fed into a computer and connected to a
projector which beams the images.
"The genre is still in infancy with barely 20 reputed
practitioners around the world," he said.
Rimoux, who had exhibited at the India Art Fair 2013, is preparing
to work at the Jaipur City Palace. "I will light up a specific
area," the artist said, adding that he wanted to "light up the
Qutab Minar, Delhi's symbol of freedom, as well".
British LED light artist Robert Montgomery - who crafts poetry,
graffiti and texts in light and fire - has created light poetry
about the maritime history of the southern outpost for ongoing
"My poetry hangs in a trail of light outside the Aspin Hall House,
the biennale venue, facing the sea," Montgomery said.
In September 2012, AGB Events, an Australian arts management
company that hosts the Vivid Light Festival in Sydney, brought to
India a three-dimensional light sculpture show at the 16th century
Purana Qila during the Oz Fest.
The multi-coloured laser light show, the first of its kind in the
capital, recreated the history of the fort with images of Islamic
rule in India and fragments of Islamic art and architecture at the
Sher Mandal at the Purana Qila, or the Old Fort.
American new media artist Janet Echelman uses an ancient Indian
symbol - the fishing net - as the primary material for her
abstract public light art that floats in the air.
While in India a few years ago, Echelman lost her paints and was
inspired by fishermen hauling their giant nets at Mahabalipuram.
She began to mould the nets into abstract shapes, colour them,
pass light through them and hitched them in the air like a
fisherman's haul. Her spectacular net light sculptures are
The tradition of light sculptures in India dates back to the sound
and light shows at the heritage sites during the 1970s.
The hub of traditional LED light art in India is Chandannagar, an
erstwhile French colony in West Bengal that has carried Indian
light motifs across the world.
"We still practise the traditional method of arranging lights on
wooden frames into patterns and lighting up the panels in the old
fashioned way. Light sculptures have become digital worldwide," an
artist from Chandannagar, who sculpts in the capital during the
festivals, told IANS.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)