Hans Kotter’s light sculptures unite design, photography and technology

The immersive light sculptures by the German artist Hans Kotter, punctuated with abstract shapes and bright contrast, breathe new life into architectural spaces.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Mar 02, 2021

To lend a fresh perspective to the physical spaces—parts of architecture hitherto neither seen nor experienced—is the sole purpose of the works by the German artist Hans Kotter. The optical art punctuated with abstract shapes and bright contrast continues to enjoy popularity among the artists and viewers alike. The immersive experience extended by the work, when placed on the walls or floors, creates an illusion of penetrating depth and oscillating movements. The colourful sculptures made out of a variety of material including LEDs, mirrors, plexiglass and metal stops the viewers to have a second look at the place. What makes Kotter's work stand out from the rest of the lot is the smooth thread connecting design, photography and technology.

Interestingly, different movements in the history of painting have considerably deliberated on the cause and effect of light on the canvas to present an authentic version of reality to the viewers, and even bespeak the inner mind space of the artist. For Kotter, who formerly studied painting, it was unlikely to be not drawn to these multitudes of meanings of light. Exploring light as an omnipresent element, Kotter in an interview with STIR, declares, “There is hardly any other element that has such a lasting influence on life on our planet as light. Light bursts our imagination of time and space. It opens our eyes to the past and to spaces in our universe that elude our physiological perceptive capabilities. Without light, refraction and reflection, we lived in a colourless and therefore contourless world. Colours and shadows are phenomena that only become visible and perceptible through light”.  

Home Sweet Home…Almost | Hans Kotter | STIRworld
Home Sweet Home…Almost Image: Courtesy of Hans Kotter

The shift to photography further cemented his fascination for the light, which eventually triggered his interest with the light art. For Kotter these transitions were but fluid, who traces photography as a mediator between painting and light art. Kotter states, “Through the photographic documentation of my works I came across the phenomenon of light refraction. In the mid-90s I had made large cast resin works and discovered the play of colours in the resin when taking detailed photographs of these works; I was immediately fascinated by the multitude of colours and forms. This was the initial spark for me to intensively deal with spectral colours and light refraction”.

To widen the scope of his works on the human sensory awareness of lights, Kotter’s installations such as Fractal have been part of the outdoor spaces too. When the movement is not restricted by the rules of physical spaces, the art in public spaces is not just, “a decorative asset, but also attract the attention of the viewer, yet be of immediate recognition as an independent work of art”.  The site specific work, be it in the public spaces or the enclosed building, is responsive to its nuances of geometrical dimension and aesthetic capabilities. Kotter declares, “Space related works require that one deal with the architectural conditions, analyses them and develops concepts and sometimes a personal relationship to the respective space from these investigations and observations. Space becomes a fundamental part of the artistic process”.

01 min watch Shifting Structure | Hans Kotter| STIRworld
Shifting Structure Video: Courtesy of Hans Kotter

Often, the works of optical art in the age of over-powering technology, are dubbed as the work-driven less by the creativity of the artist, but achieved by the refined digital technology. Kotter does not share his reluctance towards the automated rule of the colour palette when, “the use of LED technology or the RGB colour space in combination with digital photography increases the spectrum - this has been one of the most important parts of my work for many years. This has resulted in an extremely important group of works such as the works Colour Code. Having said that, the light sculptures are indeed autobiographical in nature, seeded in personal stories such as zoo. The work Almost presented in the exhibition Home Sweet Home is, “a model of longing, which promises value, privacy and permanence, especially in times of recessions and currency crises”.  

01 min watch Big Bang | Hans Kotter| STIRworld
Big Bang Video: Courtesy of Hans Kotter

Having worked with the medium of light for more than 20 years, Kotter’s interest in the composition, the spectral colours, their perception and physical correlations such as refraction, reflection is seemingly deepening and growing. Kotter states, “Usually a working idea begins with a significant and contemporary occurrence, which I combine, for example, with an ironic comment or a metaphor. Once the concept is in place, the suitable materials for its implementation must be found. Then it goes to the detailed planning and production. Larger works usually need up to one year until the final completion”.

Still Standing | Hans Kotter| STIRworld
Still Standing Image: Courtesy of Hans Kotter

If the works could lighten the room with a ray of hope and happiness in times when everyday life is rife with emotional tensions and struggles, the artist confesses, “It would be the most beautiful thing that can happen to both the viewer and me as an artist”.

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