Art and Culture
Paintings and murals in all cultures of the world show how artists have used light and shade and color to illustrate mood and create atmosphere. Modern technological possibilities allow artists to use light in new ways in entertainment and performance, and large scale lighting installations can dramatically highlight the beauty of architecture. This page will provide resources to allow you to see the many different ways in which light impacts on art and culture, and it will also describe how the scientific uses of light provide new insights into the study of our past.
Laser Light Shows
From concerts to theme parks, laser light shows entertain audiences of all ages. The precision and strength of lasers allow for light to illuminate crowds, create designs on infrastructures, and can even be seen in the night sky.
One of the oldest example of light in art, stained glass dates back to the fourth century. This form of art relies on natural light to illuminate it’s brilliance and great detail. Most commonly, stained glass windows include art depicting biblical stories and can be found in churches and other significant buildings.
Photography and Cinematography
Light is essential in producing photos and film. In photography, lighting can be the difference between an incredible shot and a terrible one. It can also be used to produce photographs in darkrooms, wherein photographers can manipulate light during exposure and use processing chemicals to create a desired effect.
In cinematography, light is necessary to create an image exposure on a frame of film or on a digital target. The art of lighting for cinematography goes far beyond basic exposure, however, into the essence of visual storytelling. Lighting contributes considerably to the emotional response an audience has watching a motion picture.
Theater and Dance
In live performances, effective lighting is so important that it typically warrants a working crew, commonly known as lighting technicians. Stage lighting in performance arts pieces not only allows the audience to see what’s happening on stage, but can also be used to set the tone, direct focus, or alter one’s position in time and space.
Lighting design is a highly technical field and involves manipulating luminaires to find the appropriate intensity, color, direction, focus, and position. In both theater and dance, light plays a tremendous role in developing the plot of performances and evoking emotion within the audience.
With advancements in LED technology, building illumination has become a common form of light art. Displays on buildings and even major landmarks are executed for both celebratory and advertising purposes. These spectacular visuals involve digitized images shown on a building’s surface and may range anywhere from 2D to 4D. Building illumination may also refer to the decorative or functional lighting of any architectural structure. For more information on this, see Light in the Built Environment.
The semi-controversial process of art restoration and conservation involves using various methods to preserve the artwork for posterity. Because art is a strong link to history and cultures of the past, this process involves following international ethical guidelines so as not to tarnish or destroy any works of art. Modern conservation laboratories use light-based scientific equipment such as microscopes, spectrometers, and x-ray instruments to better understand object and their components. The data collected from such inspections help in deciding the conservation treatments necessary.