Brilliant - Contemporary Lighting On Show At The V&A

By Kristen Bailey | 02 March 2004
Shows a photograph of a reactive lamp that has the appearance of woven straggly branches of ivy for example. The threads are lighting up and giving off a glowing turquoise colour against a black backdrop.

Photo: Digital Dawn Reactive window lamp, Rachel Wingfield, 2003.

Kristen Bailey is all aglow at Brilliant, an exhibition of contemporary lighting design, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, until April 25.

Brilliant opens with a room full of the work of Dutch designer Tord Boontje.

Boontje is the darling of lighting design, and rightly so. His work ranges from ultra-expensive Swarovski crystal chandeliers to Garland, a £15 Habitat lampshade; and every piece injects a bit of much-needed romance and poetry into the cold, hard world of design with delicate animal and floral motifs and shadow play.

Shows a photograph of a tree outside the V&A Museum, which is surrounded at its base by different coloured bulbs that take on the appearance of flowers gathered around the tree. They are arranged in neat rows of concentric circles and the same pattern is repeated on three other trees in the background.

Photo: Bruce Munro installation. © Peter Kelleher.

Garland began life as the limited edition Wednesday light – created using a method primarily used for manufacturing electrical components, by photographically etching a sheet of steel.

The result was a flat-packed piece of steel lace which could then be crumpled into shape around a lightbulb. Wednesday was an instant hit, and when the cut-price version hit the high street, it sold out nationwide.

Boontje says, "I didn't want my work to be too fashionable or perfect…it's normal - like a Wednesday."

Shows a photograph of what appears to be metal, cut into a floral pattern and folded into a cone shape around a light bulb.

Photo: Midsummer Light Tyvek, Tord Boontje, 2004 (for Artecnica).

Many of the pieces on display echo this sentiment – being at once technically and visually stunning yet unintimidating and relatively affordable.

Rachel Wingfield’s Digital Dawn Window Lamp looks like a window blind, painted with a graphic floral pattern. However, if you put your hand over the light sensor next to it, simulating darkness falling, the pattern lights up, bit by bit.

The prize for most decorative use of an extension lead must go to Arik Lévy for his Umbilical lamps – lengths of glossy red cable woven, knotted and stretched into shapes, ending in a bare bulb.

Shows a photograph of a long length of glossy red cable woven, knotted and stretched into shape so that it resembles a spherical cage around a bare bulb. There are a number of black wires sticking out at various points from the sphere.

Photo: Umbilical by Arik Levy, 2002.

Sharon Marston’s Autumn Light is a waterfall of hand-dyed and woven glass fibre optics, scattered with fabric blossoms.

As I stand beneath it, 'ooh-ing' at its silvery glow, it blushes to a deep orange, then yellow.

Here at 24 Hour Museum we’ve seen an illuminated tablecloth. Ingo Maurer’s LED Table takes the concept into the 21st century, sandwiching conductive film and tiny LEDs between thick layers of Perspex.

Shows a photograph of a large spherical light fitting that is emitting a neat pattern of small specs of white light onto a grey background.

Photo: IPCO Sphere. Fibre glass, polyester, incandescent bulb. Ron Arad, UK, 2001.

The result is a table where you dine among a constellation of manmade stars.

So vast it hangs in a room of its own, Ron Arad’s IPCO (Inverted Pinhole Camera Obscura) is a huge fibreglass globe dotted with holes, through which squiggles of light 'wallpaper' the room (and your reviewer). I had to suppress the urge to request some Kylie…

Brilliant brings together the best of contemporary lighting design - lights which react to their environments or change them, lights which react to or affect their users – functional, thrilling and inspiring.

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