Curating and creating with light

We speak to the artists behind new commissions for Glow Winter Arts Festival in the City of Stonnington about what it’s like to create with light.
Curating and creating with light

Image: supplied.

Before starting to work with light as a medium, an artist or designer needs to understand the different process and materials involved.

For artist James Voller, a new commission for Glow Winter Arts Festival in the City of Stonnington was an opportunity to do something different. While he had created night-time projection works and daytime photographic installations before, this time Voller combined the two to create the immersive work, Enchanted.


‘This work comes off the back of my other projects that look at domestic and suburban architecture to create public artworks from images I’ve taken around local communities. That was the starting point, but Enchanted is an experimental work for me where I’ve been trying out a lot of new processes and technologies,’ said Voller. 

‘There is something a lot more playful and a lot more exploratory with this than my other work.’

Enchanted activates Malvern Gardens through photographic installations printed on vinyl with a UV printing process, imbuing domestic and urban images of the everyday with an otherworldly glow. 

Image: Concept of Enchanted. Supplied.

‘There is a really strong narrative in this work. It reminds me of an old fairytale, which is a different engagement than my other work. There is always a narrative within the work, but because these ones are at night and are going to be situated into this garden bed amongst a lot of large plants it completely changes,’ he said.

After dark festivals and events often curate these happy encounters between darkness and light; events which transform public spaces, and a festival such as Glow Winter Arts Festival captures the potential of twilight as a place of rediscovery.

View 2017 Glow Winter Arts Festival program here

City of Stonnington Mayor, Cr Jami Klisaris said the festival is ‘an opportunity to discover our City in new ways. From our bustling streets of Chapel and Greville Streets to our magnificent gardens and heritage buildings remade with illuminations.’  

Now in its fourth year, the festival runs from 10 – 20 August. This year three new installation commissions – including Enchanted – will be unveiled. The two other commissions are Advice From a Butterfly by Skunk Control, which sees a kaleidoscope of butterflies whispering advice to passers-by from light posts, and Alice’s Garden by award-winning, Sydney-based lighting and visual design firm Mandylights.

Alice’s Garden will transform the landscape of Stonnington’s Central Park into ‘a world of colour and wonderment’, said Mandylights Production Designer Adrienn Lord.

‘The curatorial theme of “Down the Rabbit Hole” is something we’ve really endeavoured to capture and we want audiences to feel as though they have fallen into a magical wonderland (without needing to change size of course). Alice’s Garden exists within the natural flora of the garden and embellishes them with giant illuminated flowers, tiny flickering sprouts and gargantuan glowing mushrooms.’

Image: Concept of Alice's Garden. Supplied.

Creating with light involves a different way of working, where scale, proportion and colour – while always dimensional – take on a different value under darkness. 

‘Working with light is like working with paint in 3D, surfaces adopt the colours put onto them. Colours and shapes define themselves and aren’t dependent on their ambient surroundings. This elevates the opportunities of drama with contrast and bright colours,’ said Lord.

‘More and more urban areas are becoming awake at night. The idea of there being one city that doesn't sleep is fast become redundant. People want to finish their day, head out locally and find new excitement.’

This desire to see more works at night has been supported by local councils such as Stonnington in particular, offering audiences and artists new contexts for creative work. 

‘I think at night-time you read everyday spaces in a completely different context. You don’t have the same routines or engagement you would during the day time. Also I think there is a rise in the appreciation of public art in communities that is backed by local councils,’ said Voller. 

To learn more about Glow Winter Arts Festival visit

Brooke Boland

Friday 28 July, 2017

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.