by Dilpreet BhullarMay 09, 2022
The harmony available in the natural play of light is a seamless invitation to experience its benevolent beauty. The interest with which artists across the time periods and geographical locations have approached the theme of lights with their works signifies the never-ending affiliation with what nature bestows upon us in abundance. The UK-based contemporary artist, Fiona Grady, brings in the aesthetic of lights to create site-specific drawings on the floors, walls and windows, that carefully follow a geometric pattern of repetition. The drawings are a swift link between architecture, installations, and decoration, which once interspersed with the natural light push the viewers to re-engage with the built environment in hitherto unseen ways. Moreover, the natural phenomenon of light is crucial to the making of rhythmic patterns, which rescales the spaces in an effort to let the viewers realign their position in the built environment.
In an interview with STIR, Grady, who likes to call herself “a site-responsive artist”, talks about the conspicuous presence of lights in her works that inevitably reorients the said visual perception of the spaces, “My installations are composed of transparent coloured vinyl which filters natural and artificial light to create colourful shadows. One of my favourite installations is Shadow Play, which was exhibited at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. The work was installed on discreet skylights in the cafe bar during the time of Spring-Summer, when the sun came out it hit the colour vinyl, and allowed eye-catching coloured shadows to fall along the walls. The sunshine often fluctuates during a British summer so it felt very magical when this effect happened.”
With the passage of time, the light during the day also shifts and changes the appearance of the artwork. To give an example of the same, Grady mentions, “With my installation Scattered Memories at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes was inspired by the code breaker huts at Bletchley Park where my grandmother had worked, I used a ‘cross’ symbol that was a nod to the taped-up windows. It was used to prevent shattering during the Blitz period. The ‘x’ shape of the geometrical patterns, when allowed the daylight to pass through them, became a connection to the fading memories of the past.”
The Kaleidoscopic Prisms for Jubilee Place in Canary Wharf is not just a celebration of the light and colours, but also reiterates the collective togetherness that is emphasised with the multiple shades of colours. If the work is inspired by the children’s toy combining a palette of rainbow transparent vinyl triangles, the deep colour palette is also an immediate reference to the iconic multicoloured Rainbow Pride Flag, which reflects the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
Grady gives an explicit account of the making of the Kaleidoscopic Prisms, “As you can see from the images it is a very unusual structure to navigate and I wanted to find a way to highlight the glass prism entrance rather than flatten it. I used the lines of the metal framework as a grid with coloured triangle shapes that interlock to follow the structure of the glass panes and create directional arrows that lead the viewers to the central entrance - fully announcing its presence. The joyful use of colour celebrates every queer-identifying individual to align a sense of collective belonging. From outside the glowing shapes add vibrancy to the area in contrast to the modern architecture of Canary Wharf. The shiny glass surfaces of the building help to connect the artwork and its location as you can see reflections of the flora and fauna in the surrounding park. And within the prisms, the shapes throw colour onto the pavement and through the glass ceiling into the shopping centre.”
Born to a family of mathematicians, Grady always shared a keen eye for balance - using ratios of numbers and logical approaches to divide the space. Since repetition is integral to her works, it encourages the forging of an unconscious equilibrium within its surroundings. Still, it is the tactile quality of the works that cannot be missed in the installation works of Grady. For instance, the work Spectra Waves made for Brighton CCA (University of Brighton) is a labyrinth of light and colour which transformed the North Gallery. The stained glass of the gallery altered the interiors of the space by shifting the patterns of light. During the night when the work is lit from the insides of the gallery, it lends an illusion of the singular temporary public artwork for the city. The installation rightfully cajoles the viewers to take a pause and immerse themselves in the work to experience the flow of time.
Grady gives another example of her work Lux, which when installed at The Eye Sees in Arles, effectively drew an organic interaction with the light. “The gallery is set in the very picturesque Roman town in the South of France, they use the modern windows as a gallery space. It is somewhat at odds with the ancient architecture and that makes it work so well. For the tinted glass windows, I layered the reflective silver and gold-mirrored vinyl with moving shapes of bright translucent coloured vinyl. The contrast worked extremely well and the mirrored vinyl reflected the surrounding street in order to connect the work to the street setting. Upstairs in their private space, I also installed a series of translucent pieces of vinyl which could be seen at night time to add an extra element of intrigue.”
The large-scale installation works, in the words of Grady, could be “loud and quiet”. Yet, it is the harmony and precision that her works subtly strives for that activates the viewers’ experience around the work and location in a new light.