Exhibition Anthony McCall: Solid Light Works

Just before Leeds, in a small city called Wakefield, is the award-winning Hepworth Art Gallery. It is home to worldwide famous work from artists such as L.S Lowry, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

Between February and June, you can see the work of artist Anthony McCall, with his first major UK exhibition in over a decade. The premiere includes three new ‘solid light’ installations – an experience you cannot be prepared for. You are engrossed into a creation of tantalising light. McCall, somehow, manages to make geometry fascinating.

It’s a difficult exhibition to describe. McCall himself offers a decent attempt by describing his practice as ‘existing in space where cinema, sculpture and drawing overlap’.

Indeed, when you arrive you are greeted with a large, dark, blackened room which erupts when luminous white lines are projected onto the walls. Animated sketches then radiate light in forms of curlicues that evolve into circles and ovals which dissolve into one another and continuously repeat.

Smoke machines emit a delicate mist which floats and circulates into cones of light. The cones are projected down from the ceiling much like a theatre spotlight. The mist transcends through those geometries to produce an effect McCall calls “Solid Light”.

The instalments invite you to interact with the light making you an effective participant in the artwork. I walked directly inside the solid beams of light and turned to face the moving visions. The circle and oval light beams surround you forming what looks like a long, lit-up passage. It reminded me of continuous, angelic church arches. The mist creates a haunting atmosphere but at the same time, it felt rather dreamy. It is an interesting mix between a nightmare and a deep sleep sensation.

The illuminated passageways eventually lead you to a secret room. And then again, still blackened and melancholy, they lead you down even more interactive routes. You can’t resist running your hands through the streams of light and creating your own unique shadows. The whole exhibition encourages you to wander and interact.

The core of the showcase features two galleries dedicated to the intricacies of his graphic work. The artwork in this room highlights a way to visualise and observe temporal structure in a three-dimensional manner.

Although viewing paintings and sculptures on walls is still very charming, it is rather hypnotic and memorising to feel like you are part of a dimensional artwork as well. You experience it physically as well as visually, almost as if you are embedded within a sculpture.  

In another room a video relates a story of a distinctive type of light installation. McCall illumed the city of Hamburg every night for a year in 2013 in memory of the deceased 40,000 from the traumatic Allied Bombing of Hamburg in 1943. It is a poignant and touching element to the exhibition bringing you back down to reality.

If you are seeking a new, fresh way to view dynamic and interesting artwork, this exhibition is for you. The whole Hepworth Art Gallery is of genuine interest, but it is McCall who takes you through a range of emotions in the same moment, immersing your conscious in a dream-like novelty. There’s not much artwork that can do that.

The show is available for viewing between 16th February – 3rd June 2018. It’s definitely worth the short journey from Manchester and even better, the exhibition is free. If you are after an enchanting, fascinating experience, this will captivate your imagination and not let you down.