Burning light

Cerith Wyn Evans, S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motives overspill’), 2010

Going back to work that transforms the space in an unexpected way, thinking about Martin Creed’s Work No. 227: The lights going on and off made me think about Cerith Wyn Evans’s S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motives overspill’) which I first saw at White Cube Mason’s Yard a couple of year ago and again recently in a somewhat pared down form at the extraordinary De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill in Sea.

The installation is a series of columns made of lighting filaments running though glass tube. The columns both form obstructions in the room and alter the light levels within it. More interestingly though they generate a huge amount of heat. And, as you may have guessed given the mention of Creed’s installation, they go on and off.

The heat when one is next to one of the columns is intense. But once the light goes off the temperature drop is almost instantaneous. The columns are sometimes all on or all off but most of the time some are on while others are off. The glow and fade cycle is intriguing with the glowing columns exuding a strange glitziness while unlit they become simpler, but the cool transparency reveals the filaments, their mode of operation.

At White Cube with what seemed like an inescapable forest of columns the effect was intense. The lights blaze very brightly and the heat is overwhelming; as columns go off the relief is quick but inevitably short-lived. Wyn Evans has worked with light in different ways in other works – and there’s every chance I’ll return to his work in a later post – but I think this is the piece of his that I’ve found the most interesting and also the most beautiful.


In the De La Warr Pavilion, the columns echo the light at the centre of the spiral staircase in a really interesting way but the work, on show in a small space on the first floor, was compromised somewhat for me by being reduced to three columns. Quite simply these don’t generate enough light or heat to really replicate the intensity of the installation in White Cube. It was good to see the work again anyway – and it’s always exciting to go to the De La Warr Pavilion as it’s such an amazing building, and Wyn Evans used the space really well for the most part – but I found myself longing for the burning heat and light of my previous encounter with the work.

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