ross mcleod and wayne moskwa


'Colours are the deeds and sufferings of light, 'the deeds and sufferings of light with darkness' - Goethe 1

'space emerges at the interface where material aspects dissolve' - Zen Proverb 2


Light has fascinated mankind throughout history. From mythical interpretations of Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks, to the scientific and metaphysical proofs of Newton, Faraday, Einstein and Hawking, the elusive nature of light has been studied and theorised, deified and worshipped .

To the physicist, light represents a band of radiation wavelengths perceivable by the optic nerve. The spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) is the specific identification of these visible wavelengths and frequencies ((mu) 800 -390). Our perception of the world is as a result absorbed and reflected light. A red wall is in fact everything but red. Its appearance is the result of all the colours of the spectrum being absorbed except red; these reflections of specific wavelengths create our visual understanding of the physical world.

Artists have concentrated on an analysis of light in differing and poetic ways. Painters such as Turner, Cézanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Van Doesburg, Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse, and Rothko each developed finely honed theories and approaches to the understanding and manipulation of light and colour. The visual color spectrum can be equated to various systems. However despite the various interpretations of light, no theory has exactly captured its essence. Modern theory has provided the ultimate conundrum in describing, through experimentation, that light behaves as both a particle and a wavelength.

Through the exposure to these varying philosophical, aesthetic and technical codifications, and via meticulous personal observation and experimentation, we can engage in the sublimely difficult task of defining the world as light. By negotiating the boundary between darkness and light, concentrating on the interplay of natural and artificial light sources, one can attempt to convey the idea of form emerging from light. Seeking to catch the penumbra-the seeing of darkness as the equal partner of light, and in this way combining technical information with personal perception to manifest an intimate understanding of light and its conditions.

The study of light leads to the realm of colour. Following in the footsteps of the sixties 'OP' artists, the studio conducted a careful manipulation of the characteristics of colour and human perception. This knowledge was expressed via painted panels resonating with colour frequencies and spatial perception. The panels expressed a specific understanding of the dynamics of relative colour, composition and the manipulation of surface, texture and depth.

The Velocity project tested a simple hypothesis: 'if the speed of light is a constant, then material, form and space must have a "speed" relative to a light source'. In this way we are able to bring a light reading to all materials and perceive them as etheral conductors of light rather than solid masses. These investigations led to the Light Well project, a group installation in which students manipulated light conditions within an enclosed stairwell. The projected light of additive colour (RED, GREEN, BLUE) and the subtractive colours of paints and surfaces (CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW) were used with subtle and knowing manipulation. The project sought a mix of colour between light and darkness, creating spectrums of light in the ether, dematerialising form while expanding our perception of space and light.

Architects, designers and artists have long responded to the moving light from the sun considering how it may be used to charge spaces. The Cardinal Spaces project reviewed the relationship of the earth to the sun, comprehending the movement of the sun through the heavens relative to specific latitudes on the planet Earth. In designing spatial transformations that take place by the manipulation of the natural light we must consider carefully the geometry of these spaces, the nature of their openings and apertures, the materials they are produced from, the colour which they catch and reflect and the effect that light has upon them at different points of the day. In addressing the realm of naturally lit spaces we address the passage of time. Relating the movement of the sun through the sky to rituals and moments of the day, our daily events can be intensified by architectural manipulation.

In response to these principles students designed four spaces, one corresponding to each of the four cardinal points of the compass-north, south, east and west. Each cardinal space was a subset of the whole suggested by a conceptual thread binding all four together. These proposals became archetypal explorations of the nature of architecture and natural light.


With the accumulated knowledge, perceptions and skills of the manipulation of light and colour, students embarked on a tracing of the historical developments in the understanding of light and its implications on civilization.

A group of key people, discoveries and philosophies that helped define the body of knowledge and perception of light were identified. The Egyptians, the Mayans, Socrates, Galileo, Newton, Goethe, Faraday, Einstein and Hawking were all included. Students chose one of these key figures and produced a short documentary. These short films sought to capture the spirit of each personality and the scientific, religious, artistic and/ or architectural climate that defined and was shaped by their specific knowing of light.

From this research the students made proposals for a 'light house'. The Light House project was to be situated in a Museum of Art, Science and Human Perception. The conceptual basis of the project was to manifest a space in which we would experience a specific knowing of light via the mediums of light and spatiality. This exposition was to be spatial scheme that housed the assembled insight, knowledge and specific understanding of light of the particular subject.

The designed spaces attempted to create a physical manifestation of the subjects 'way of seeing' by focusing on the physical and phenomenological implications of their work and making their knowledge 'visible' in the surroundings. The assignment signalled a move away from oral, visual and text based knowledge, towards the realm of image and time-based spatial expositions. The information was presented as an experience; as a series of moments. The metaphors inherent in the image of a lighthouse as an isolated beacon, a reference point and ray of hope were to be exploited. Ultimately the project attempted to merge the medium with the message and expose the viewer to the entwined history of light and mind, by creating a space where light and enlightenment became one.


1. Goethe W. J., Scientific Studies, 1798, p. 158 as referenced in Catching the Light, by Zajonc, Arthur, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1993

2. W. Thomsen, Christian, 'Media Architecture, part 5: Light-Architecture-Media', A+U no. 307, p. 103