by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
Celestial wonders often leave humanity in awe; among them is the emergence of a rainbow after a rainy day. It requires less serendipity, and more luck, witnessing a rainbow, the spectrum of seven colours, that has been an ardent source of inspiration for artists. A cursory look at art history is enough to gauge how the rainbow has punctuated paintings around landscapes, including works of artists such as—John Constable, Albert Bierstadt, and Alexey Savrasov, to name a few. But it was visual artists, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, that transcended this symbol of hope into a symbol of expressionism. The flow of the colour in a symmetrical pattern continues to hold the attention of creative minds and with the advent of technology, the representation of this phenomenon has gained a new meaning. Yvette Mattern, a Los Angeles and Berlin-based visual artist, with her larger-than-life light public installation has successfully lent an immersive touch to the phenomenon with the light installation Global Rainbow. Known widely, the installation is inspired by a natural rainbow seen over Walden Pond, Massachusetts in 2007, and its connection to the Transcendentalist movement. Transcendentalists believe that the order of the world is evident in nature, and the patterns established there can and should be imitated in society.
The light art installation with high-specification laser light is an effort by Mattern to draw a close connection with a variety of demographics, in a participatory and engaging manner. The 120+ W power laser light projection beams in horizontal lines, evoking a natural perspective of a horizon arc. In an interview with STIR, Mattern informs, “My Global Rainbow was not an effort to imitate the physical phenomena of a rainbow, but rather the sensation one has upon seeing it. While Global Rainbow created with high specification laser technology may resemble nature, it is manifestly manmade.”
In an urban context, the sense of connectedness one has upon seeing it is not only with one’s surrounding environment, but also with the society that inhabits it. “My intention as an artist is to create wonderment, with Global Rainbow acting as a symbol of the restoration of faith in human nature, recalling the redemptive values of the transcendentalists,” she continues. The monumental laser light installation has been presented over 15 times since 2009, including the launch of the London Cultural Olympiad in the Northeast, Northwest England, and Northern Ireland.
The conspicuous presence of colour, playing with the visual perception of the spaces, becomes tricky with the laser light, which is straight and does not bend. Thereby, bringing many conceptual problems. Since it is continuous and does not fade or stop, therefore it must be terminated or reflected from a mirror. Mattern says, “The availability of the entire spectrum of colours in laser light is limited and a recent phenomenon in the last 20 years, and unique in the way I have utilised laser light in monumental presentations. The rainbow colour spectrum is pure and functions like sacred geometry. The combination inherently works phenomenologically and perceptually. My interest and strength are utilising colour to transform perception.”
Recently, Mattern’s Global Rainbow was installed in association with Bacardi, nightly at Venice Beach, during the Venice Pride. The public art light installation with its “poetic, magical, and powerful” experience carries “Immersiveness as a component of the work, but not in a traditional manner as most immersive installations,” says the artist. Since the scale of Global Rainbow encompasses sometimes up to 60 miles of visibility, the installation refrains following the conventional definition of immersive artworks, which usually encompass an interior space—transformed into a new ‘world,’ where one is bathed under artificially transforming experience as immersive.
Despite the linear movement of the laser lights, it complements the architecture to underscore the fluidity of the matter—be it light or concrete. When the light artist refrains to draw a simulation of the natural phenomenon, the hope is to shift the viewers’ perception of the banal into magic and wonderment. With Global Rainbow, visible from every direction, Mattern confides, “Most specifically I intend to expand perception and allow and invite viewers to sense the artificial light and conceptual presentation as expansive and transcendental.”