Light from many sources

October 30, 2013

Light from many sources

Light in the Tiled Hall Light in the Tiled Hall

Lisa and I spent the afternoon discussing research, hers, mine and other peoples’, and how it interweaves with our experience of Turrell’s light art.  The sun played on the wall in the Tiled Hall and straight into my eyes; I moved so that the effect was gentler. Interestingly that can’t happen in the Skyspace – how is that?  I suppose the light is not allowed to come sideways.

It was the research of an unknown student at Bretton College which introduced me to James Turrell’s work.  She wanted responses to a questionnaire from Quakers, and it was pressed upon me because I was ‘doing research’.  I  thought I knew little about Quaker architecture, but because people had been so kind in helping me get data for my own research I was willing to help in return.  By the time I finished answering the questions I realised I knew more about the architecture of Quaker meeting houses than I had thought.  I could answer her questions about how the seats are arranged, what are the furnishings or decorations like, are there any focal points, where does the light come from? In my head there was a typical meeting house, but I had never heard of James Turrell.  I sent my responses in, but later on we were never able to trace who started this (uncompleted) research project .

Meeting House window. Bewdley Meeting House window. Bewdley


Later that day I picked up the Sunday newspaper magazine and there was an article about Turrell’s Kielder Skypace, Cat Cairn, with photographs. This felt so synchronistic and I felt so drawn to this work that I knew it would take me somewhere.  A couple of years later we went to look for the Cat Cairn Skyspace.  A mile up a rough track from the main road, but unsigned and unexpected till we rounded the final bank.  Squat like a stone igloo with a funnel, partly covered with earth roof, it was a disappointment.  Some of the interior lights were broken, puddles were on the floor and somehow the whole thing was reminiscent of a public convenience on a bad day.  It was darkening but our timing was not precise and we saw no special effects or anything like the glamorous pictures in the Observer. But it was a good walk on a clear evening. Click here to find it on good days.

In 2003 Helen and I met at the Quaker Studies Research Summer School  and  began an ongoing dialogue about our respective research enquiries. In 2006 she encouraged me to come and see some installations at Yorkshire Sculpture Park by artist called Turrell.  She was surprised at my excitement, and we were both completely surprised when the opening of the Deer Shelter Skyspace was announced a few weeks later.

Helen’s research about the Quaker understanding of light, and Lisa’s images   will come together and interweave at the seminar/studyafternoon/symposium on March 22 next year. Meanwhile the work grows on quietly, waiting for when the time comes for it to be shared.


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