This weekend, Durham is filled with a myriad of light installations for the biannual display of international light work and sculpture. I spoke to 10 of the artists exhibiting as part of Lumiere 2023 about their favourite parts of their work. Here are their answers and where you can see the installations yourself.
1. Signed Light by Martin Glover
Signed Light draws the viewer to the nuance of language, highlighting the beauty of fingerspelling through the depiction of the word ‘LIGHT’ in five neon signs. Glover’s goal was to celebrate language by creating a physical display of what is usually only spoken. He says, “the language is alive and it is virtually impossible to record on paper and I came up with the animated sequence to come out alive and encourage the audience to understand.” Whilst speaking to Glover, he emphasised the sign language course that the Durham SU hosts and hopes his piece encourages viewers to consider learning sign language themselves.
The piece can be seen hidden amongst trees in the graveyard at St. Oswald Church on Church Street.
2. Ghost Nest by Angela Sandwith
The piece Ghost Nest focuses on the detriment of manmade infrastructure and practices to the environment by crafting a nest, a symbol of the natural world, using fishing paraphernalia and other repurposed waste materials found in the natural habitat of the East Durham beaches. The glowing epicentre of the piece, homing a collection of eggs, has a breathing quality and highlights the growing environmental issues and the necessity for nature to flourish despite the engulfment of pollution to its environment. Sandwith’s favourite aspect of the work was the centre due to the variety of texture and colour against the stark rope nest.
Ghost Nest can be found on the racecourse by St. Cuthbert’s Society Boat Club next to the Baths Bridge.
3. Constellations by Joanne Lemercier
Constellations depicts an audio-visual interpretation of the story of the universe, drawing upon the elements of the environment that it created, namely water, light and wind. This massive and spectacular piece lights a mass of the River, interplaying with its environment giving the piece a natural context. Constellations’ creators emphasised the importance of the viewers in the installation’s influence stating, “Our favorite aspect of Constellations is how it allows [the viewer] to perceive the movement of air in the water droplets, creating a bridge between this intangible water screen and its environment. Thanks to this, every show is unique and a shared experience between the spectators in public space.”
Due to its position on the river, the installation is visible from across the racecourse but is best viewed just past St. Cuthbert’s Society Boat Club.
4. Hurts So Good by Chila Burman MBE
Hurts So Good paints Durham Market Square with a spectrum of coloured, fluorescent light in the form of a myriad of neon signs each crafted by artist Chila Burman MBE. The installation is filled with motifs of popular culture and strong messages of female empowerment in addition to referencing Indian mythology. Speaking with Burman, she struggled to pick a favourite of the plethora of pieces covering Market Square but was most excited to see the five new neon signs she had designed for the installation for the first time, namely, a hand, a skeleton in a coffin and a tuk-tuk.
Hurts So Good can be unmissably seen across all areas of Market Square.
5. Watchtower by Ron Haselden
Watchtower creates a looming seven metre high tower decorated with illuminated faces based on the theme ‘Brothers and Sisters’. Each of the sixty portraits are based on sketches by young children, some of whom attend school in Durham, and were then crafted for the sculpture using LED rope. Artist Ron Haselden emphasised how rewarding its conception has been and comments that, “the purpose of this work is to present their drawings in confrontational assemblages which reflect ideas within the environment in which they are shown.”
Watchtower can be seen at Durham Sixth Form Centre.
6. Rumination by Dave Young
Rumination comprises of four handmade, decorated sheep created from a willow skeleton and given a unique character using light and material. Artist Dave Young alluded to his aim of the piece being to bring positivity to the viewer, stating “The pastures of Durham city are a lovely fertile place to bring [the sheep] to, as you may know Illuminated Sheep graze off the smiles & laughter of happy people, of which there seems to be an abundance of in Durham.”
Rumination can be seen in 4 locations stretching between Riverwalk and ending in Crook Hall Gardens.
7. Colour the Castle by Mr.Beam
Illuminating the castle with projected light, Colour the Castle decorates the façade with 150 drawing created by people from a variety of backgrounds and crafts a colourful display of images onto the castle’s silhouette. Speaking to artist Mr.Beam, the best aspect is “the element of inclusion and freedom of expression,” in the variety of imaginations the piece hosts. He continues, “As the work is a collection of drawings and colourings of more than 150 people of all ages, backgrounds, communities, and artistic experiences. It is the celebration of the unique individual, celebrated in a grand spectacle where everyone comes together.”
Colour the Castle can be seen from Framwellgate Bridge and other work by Mr.Beam can be seen here.
8. Panta Rhei by Gareth Hudson and Toby Thirling
Panta Rhei features specular beams of light paired with the beautiful voices of local Durham choirs and casts a glow of light over the Durham sky. Despite the imposing and dominating loom of the pillars of light, artist Gareth Hudson’s favourite aspect is the fragments of sound which complete the piece. He comments, “My favourite part of the production was working with Toby Thirling (my collaborator) because he’s such a talent as a sound recordist and sound designer. We worked with local choirs and that was an incredible experience that we were so appreciative of because the work wouldn’t have been possible without them and their patience.”
Pictures don’t do the scale of the audio-visual experience justice, therefore the piece is a must-see on Prebend’s Bridge.
9. Body of Light by Shuster + Moseley
Body of Light casts a prism of multicoloured light across the River Wear, colouring the riverbank and trees in a rainbow through creating a spectrum of light on the opposite side. Artists Shuster and Mosley attributed their favourite aspect of the piece to its interplay with its setting, stating “Our favourite aspect is the fact that the piece is always changing in relation to the environment, it won’t look the same way twice because it is a living light in dialogue with the atmospheric conditions.”
Once more, the vibrant rays cannot be captured on camera, therefore the installation is best seen in person along the river walkway past Prebend’s Bridge.
10. Inner Cloister by Adam Frelin
Seen in the inner cloister of the Cathedral as the name reveals, Frelin’s installation perfectly mirrors each of the stone archways that surround the piece in bright simplistic light, each illuminating in a pattern to follow the passage that monks would have taken around the Cathedral. For Frelin due to the fact the installation was designed around the space, the highlight of the piece had been to see it in its intended location. Due to the nature of the piece he says, “Walking around it, at times [the arches and the light] line up perfectly. Stone and light mirror each other, allowing the piece to simulate the cloisters of the cathedral as a parallel place in space, time, and meaning that we can look into, but never enter.” As Frelin puts it, the “ethereal balancing act” brings to life the centre of the Cathedral and is a must-see installation to walk around.
All of the installations featured in this article are free to visit from 19:30-23:00 from the 16th to the 19th November 2023, with the final opportunity to see the installations being Sunday 19th November.
Image by Amy Lawson