29. Aug 2017

The fascinating use of spectral colours in the artwork of Stephen Knapp.

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag

Artists around the world are forever proving that there is far more required to create a work of art than a paintbrush, paint and a canvas. Using a wide range of techniques, artists create “pictures”. The fact that light can play a role in all this may be obvious to some, especially those aware of the possibility of breaking light down into its spectral colours.

And yet it is not easy to realise this in practice and to come up with a remarkable work of art that rightfully deserves a place in an art gallery.

American artist Stephen Knapp is one of a small group of artists to first work with light. Some years ago he began to apply artificial light sources that were in common use and that we therefore take for granted, or overlook completely. One of the most effective ways of rendering the white light from spotlights, uplighters or downlights more visible is to separate it into its pure spectral colours and “paint” with it. Knapp claims that glass allows him to manipulate and explore light and illusion, the angle of incidence at which the light is refracted determining the colour reflected on the wall. Thus the artist can toy with different angles of coloured light, casting pointed, rounded, straight or endless paths of light across the wall, sometime spilling onto the adjacent room surface, or stopping or redirecting the light by placing a glass or metal plate in its path.

His art works are sometimes framed like paintings, presenting the observer with a specific view of the work, although even then there is no guarantee that the light will not find a way to seep through its confines. Layers of white and coloured light are superimposed, lending the work depth and structure and creating a state of unadulterated euphoria in the otherwise relatively dark space.

Stephen Knapp’s work comprises elaborately assembled art pieces starring light in all its spectral colours. The physical qualities of light and how such effects can be achieved are well-known scientific facts, familiar to every schoolchild. But the colourful splendour of these works never fails to captivate the viewer.

Stephen Knapp’s unique “lightpaintings”, as he calls them, can quite rightly be referred to as interactive, or even immersive, experiences.

Design: Stephen Knapp


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