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“....the Illuminating Gas”

Neon, lights and sounds: the art of Cerith Wyn Evans

Published: 27 2月 2020
Cerith Wyn Evans was born in Wales in 1958, and currently lives and works in London and Norwich. He studied at the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London under the artists John Stezaker and Peter Gidal.

His career began in the 1980s with a number of experimental short films. In the early 1990s, however, he abandoned his career as a filmmaker to focus on sculpture, installations, photographs and site-specific or performance projects that clearly indicated his desire to create metaphorical works that the spectator has to interpret.
“....the Illuminating Gas”

EXIT, Cerith Wyn Evans, 1994

His art stands out particularly for its use of light and sound, two ephemeral elements that when combined, create works in which the dimension of time and the concept of the finite duration of the work itself play a central role. Often his works are genuine processes of transformation. Starting from a complex baggage of cultural references and quotations that ranges from music to literature, philosophy and photography, and touches on poetry, art history, astronomy and science in general, Wyn Evans recounts the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a system that is not easy to decipher. The forms he invents are totally original and transforming textual materials into the language of light.

The curators Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí explain the exhibition

In the world created by Evans, light speaks with darkness, sounds and the surrounding space.
Yes, “....the Illuminating Gas” exhibition at Milan’s Pirelli HangarBicocca has recently come to an end. It was not a retrospective, but an immersive exhibition experience that recounted the key element in Wyn Evans art, namely light. Curated by Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí, the exhibition focused on twenty-four works created between 2015 and 2019. These sculptures, complex monumental installations and new productions filled over five thousand square metres in the “Le Navate” and “Cubo” spaces at the Pirelli HangarBicocca. A vast area with a powerfully magnetic atmosphere. In this article published in Artribune, Wyn Evans himself states that, when he saw this empty space for the first time, he thought: «What am I going to do now? I felt like one of those small marine animals on the seabed, who are obliged to abandon their shell to find a larger one. I had to abandon a number of productions to go beyond myself. I threw myself into this grandiloquent space which, for me, is a sort of cathedral with no faith. It is like a temple to a forgotten religion. [...] This always happens when you see something that is unbelievably magnificent. I am constantly impressed by its proportions and by the scale of these works, installed in the HangarBicocca. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.»

A slow and constant pulsation of seven imposing twenty-metre-high light columns that act as the counterpoint to the hiss emitted by thirty-seven slim glass pipes. A series of neon sculptures that interact with a kilometre-long tangle of luminous curves and straight lines. Movements taken from the world of Japanese Noh theatre and translated into a language of light. In the world created by Evans, light speaks with darkness, sounds and the surrounding space in a way that resembles the natural world described by Baudelaire in Correspondences as being rich in secret references and a forest of symbols in which the visitor, not the poet stands at the centre, immersed in an unforgettable synesthetic experience.