Text: Herbert Cybulska
Photos: Herbert Cybulska

20. Sep 2009

About the history, development and
the meaning of light in the field of art

The technique and the ideology of stage lighting found their way into architectural lighting long ago. In fact, this is where its origins are. The inspiration that architectural lighting designers have drawn from light art is well known. The influences that light art has found in architectural and stage lighting are obvious. In this article Herbert Cybulska, experienced photographer, stage lighting designer and architectural lighting designer – all three disciplines pursued with passion and a leaning to the artistic – describes the correlations between electric light and light art. In my childhood in Germany in the 1950s our Catholic church was an important place of light. There was symbolic light with candles and flames and especially during the long sermons there was enough time to reflect on the colours of chasubles worn by the priest and altar servers; why green at Whitsun and white or red at Easter … and why never orange? The blazing red, orange and yellow colour effects of the gigantic mosaic wall that was engraved on the entire front face of the church represented a symbolic illustration of the creation of the world. This picture was distinctly different from mediaeval thinking where the commandment “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” had been so sustainably forgotten. That having been said, Christianity actually started in a very different way. In Jewish / Old Testament light imagery there is a reference to light as a “Place of God”, a light that man cannot see. It does not allow the presence of humans. In Greek culture, the second source of occidental consciousness, there is light imagery that is present as well as allowing presence. Zeus was described in legends as a “God of Lightning” and “The God of Light”.

Later, when Greek philosophy further developed the notion of reason and consciousness, Platonic terminology was also expressed using metaphors related to light. That is to say the idea, a quintessential part of Plato’s philosophy, is linked with the word for light: so the notion of present day “Idea” originates in the Greek word Videa. The idea was something that a person had seen, initially externally, but then in his entity and deep down had truly understood. Our present day word Video has the same root as the word Idea and the word Realization. Light and understanding are deeply interconnected. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 68

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