Light and colour radiate from artist Daniel Buren’s illuminating show at The Baltic in Gateshead.
What a thrill to be bathed in a rainbow of colours as you walk through the gallery’s spaces.
Before arriving at the exhibition, you’re in for a sensory treat with a wall of colour on the front of the BALTIC gallery. The colours of the art installation also illuminate the lift and public spaces as you walk around the building.
Daniel Buren is considered to be France’s greatest living artist and one of the most influential figures in European art.
Although I’d seen his work before, this new art show is engaging and fun with its beautiful colours and patterns. Many of the works have been created specially for this exhibition.
It also takes over the whole building. Buren has transformed The Baltic into spectacular art work.
Take the lift to the Viewing Box where’s a great view over the main exhibition space. On a sunny day, the dazzling colours bounce across the gallery like a prism of light.
Buren’s experiments with colour, light and reflection remind me of a modern day cathedral with stained glass windows.
The interplay of light and space creates a very clever effect especially when you’re standing some distance away.
The constantly shifting colours play with your visual senses and create changing patterns.
Close up to the works there’s a strange sense of light radiating from within with colours and shapes shifting as you move around the art works.
At certain angles you can see the simple trick of the light. The art installation stands as a plain mirrored surface.
Move a few feet and the colour reappears and illuminates the glass surface with its reflective power.
I love the way Buren uses the light across the ceiling strips of the gallery to create the cathedral-like effect.
Stand with your head tilted on one side and you get a weird sense of space and dimensions. It’s almost like being stuck inside a weird time warp or tunnel.
I felt like I was trapped inside the vortex colour sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It’s also great that the artist and The Baltic have allowed photos for this show (except for professional photographers). I guess that they would have been fighting a losing battle to stop visitors snapping away.
This is ‘selfie heaven’ for anyone who loves taking shots of themselves on their mobile phone!
These impressive light works have been created especially for this exhibition.
The series are called ‘Catch As Catch Can: Work in Situ’ – the large sculptural mirrors are positioned to reflect the light from the coloured windows above them.
The mirrors are 2001 metres square which means, like all Buren’s works, they are divisible by the 8.7 centimetres width of his stripes. The geomtery is lost of me but I guess the proportions have a deeper meaning?
They’re installed on frames that tilt which means that the artist has been able to play with colour, light and shapes. The spectators become part of the art works too – a great immersive experience.
It’s hard not to go mad taking dozens of photos especially on a day when the light is constantly changing.
A friend visited on a dull day and experienced a very different experience to me. So this is one exhibition that you might want to visit multiple times to witness different light patterns.
Shapes and stripes
Stripes are the other big obsession in Daniel Buren’s work. When Buren rejected conventional painting, he developed the concept of what he called “a degree zero of painting”.
He developed installations and works which drew attention to the relationship between art and the place in which it is exhibited.
He started by making paintings with fabric woven with alternating bands of white and colour. Today this interest in stripes and fabric has evolved into his luminous fibre optic works.
The Electric Light series also reveals Daniel Buren’s continuing preoccupation with light, colour, space and form.
At first glance it looks like these pieces are lit from within but talking to the gallery staff, they demonstrated how the works are created by using a light from above which drops the colour and light onto the flat surface.
It’s a clever trick which creates a luminous aura around the outer edges of the art works.
Made with paint, fabric, paper, tape, aluminium, wallpaper and fibre optics, the stripes have a hypnotic feel.
It’s almost as if the stripes are floating in space.
Elsewhere there are examples of other non-illuminated stripe works with bold colours and forms like this green and white, cube form installation (see below).
In a similar style is a striking yellow work called Bas-Relief which is made up of 14 raised cubes.
It reminded me of an outdoor work I encountered by Daniel Buren on a visit to Paris’ Palais Royale a few years ago.
The Parisian work – called Excentriques – comprises a series of raised, coloured, circular structures covering a large city square.
These works feel more sculptural or architectural in form than what I’m calling ‘the light box’ fibre optic works.
The colours are vibrant and bright but their varied shapes create a strong sense of form and geometric blocks.
The stripes have become a signature motif for Daniel Buren – he says that he’s drawn to the stripes because of their anonymity and neutral presence.
I guess that means that the artist wants us to look at the relationship between the art and the space in which it’s exhibited rather than fixating purely on the work itself.
There is definitely a strong sensory quality as you walk through a gallery full of Daniel Buren’s art works.
So why not tread the light fantastic at this illuminating exhibition? It’s an immersive experience which is easy to be drawn into.
Tammy’s top tips – Daniel Buren
Daniel Buren is showing at The Baltic gallery in Gateshead in North East England until 12 October 2014. Admission is free.
Look out for special events and talks tying in with this major exhibition including the artist Daniel Buren in conversation on Wednesday 8 October.
The Baltic is located on Gateshead Quayside overlooking the River Tyne and Millennium Bridge. Catch the yellow shuttle bus from Newcastle city centre or park in the nearby car park.
Constant changes in light and weather make this an exhibition that is worth seeing in different climactic conditions.