Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans, known for his immersive performative sculptures that harness the potential of language to create moments of rupture and delight, recently unveiled his largest solo exhibition at the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan.
‘…the Illuminating Gas’, curated by Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todoli, comprises of 24 works ranging from the Wyn Evans' earlier sculptures and complex monumental installations to new productions. The works are conceived as a harmonious composition in which light, energy and sound generate sensorial collisions and perceptual short-circuits that place the viewer in a dynamic system to decipher its complex layers of meanings.
Conceived by the artist as a love letter to the space, the exhibition takes over the expansive volumes of HangarBicocca’s Navate and the Cubo spaces as a surreal luminous landscape featuring suspended scribbled curves and tangled lines.
Wyn Evans, whose poetic works have previously been exhibited across several international art festivals and galleries including the Tate Britain, London, in 2017, generates processes of transformation where he communicates ideas through an arsenal of quotations and textual references, turning them into a language of light.
‘…the Illuminating Gas’ exemplifies artist’s refined aesthetic through a range of installations. The Navate opens with the slow and intermittent throbs of seven light columns of StarStar/Steer (2019) – a work made specifically for the exhibition, consisting a skeleton of tubular lamps. The installation rises as high as the ceiling, and creates sporadic bursts of light and shadow within the space.
It continues with 13 neon sculptures from the series Neon Forms (after Noh) (2015–2019) that engage in a dialogue with the mile-long imposing Forms in Space… by Light (in Time) (2017), an ornamental composition of curves and lines that expand down the length of the aisle. While the former refers to steps, head and kimono movements of actors in Japanese Noh theatre, the latter combines abstractions and elements present in other works of the show.
Another installation, titled Composition for 37 flutes (2018) reveals itself as an ethereal glass sculpture where air from its thin reeds emits a sharp, prolonged sound.
Inside the Cubo, the only space with natural lighting, visitors are greeted by the E=C=L=I=P=S=E (2015) – a mammoth installation featuring diagonally suspended neon text that describes the temporal and geographical progression of a solar eclipse across different continents.
Positioned closely is C=O=N=S=T=E=L=L=A=T=I=O=N (I call your image to mind) (2010) – a suspended mobile composed of reflective disks and directional speakers. The installation results in a polyphonic collage that includes the artist’s own arrangements on piano as well as recordings by a radio telescope in an astronomical observatory.
Moving ahead, one encounters M=A=N=T=R=A (2017) and S=U=T=R=A (2017), the two pairs of chandeliers made from brown Murano glass that emit flashing lights according to a music piece written by Evans himself. While Mantra is formed by hanging floral motifs, Sutra has linear and geometric elements drawn from the design originally conceived for a mosque in Iran in the 1970s. Light and movement see another beautiful mélange in Still Life (In course of arrangement…) (2019), an installation that refers to the dawn of cinema.
The various works connect threads to Wyn Evans’ deep interest in film and music, referencing his early career when he worked as a filmmaker producing short, experimental films. Simple yet complex, evocative yet abstract, visible yet out of sight, the artist’s expressions of light and sound frozen in space leave an impression too grand to digest at once.