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Shining light on artistic process
Tom Muller with his Luminousflux piece. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

For the more than 40,000 people who flocked to LUMINOUSnight, the University of WA's centenary bash last Friday, the extravaganza of light and performance by 250 artists is likely to be mentally ingrained as an exceptional and unforgettable experience.

Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery keeps the celebratory embers alight until April with the Festival show Luminousflux, a scintillating collection of works exploring how artists harness the medium of light.

Curators Ted Snell and Sally Quin were initially inspired by the way the advent of the light bulb in 1875 changed life irreversibly, making man victorious over night and light the medium of the 20th century and beyond.

Spanning generations and continents, the exhibition marks the launch of a new space dedicated to new media within the gallery. In it, Motion and Rest #4 (2002) by San Francisco-based Jim Campbell provides a fascinating link to his Scattered Light installation now in Kings Park, revealing leaps in his practice of seamlessly blending custom electronics to create works of poetic beauty exploring motion.

Quin says Campbell's work lends itself to being in an isolated gallery. "The new space is an enveloping space we didn't previously have for this kind of material."

Also in Luminousflux is renowned New Zealand artist Bill Culbert who is representing his country in the 2013 Venice Biennale, and a 1977 work, considered audacious at the time, by New Yorker Dan Flavin (1933-1996), a pioneer of neon art.

Flavin's work, Untitled (for you, Leo, in long respect and affection) 2, is displayed in a corner of the gallery, a position Flavin preferred, creating an optical illusion of bending geometric walls.

Tom Muller, one of four local artists commissioned to create work for the show, says Flavin's work was seminal.

"It's a great honour to be exhibited alongside him. His work is timeless. It's interesting seeing the new body of work we are creating nowadays, and how it's not that different to what he came up with in the 70s."

Muller says he and local artists Brendan Van Hek, Rebecca Baumann and Paul Caporn were given eight months to consider the premise of luminous flux: the measure of the perceived brightness of light.

"The idea was to have people working with light in some way, shape or form. My work is very graphically driven with sharp lines, referencing the natural world in some way. When we were given the theme of light I was quite excited to bring in elements of space and create a sense of convergence."

Muller, whose recent commissions include an entry statement at Enex 100 in St Georges Terrace and another at the Al Bustan Hotel in Abu Dhabi opening in July, says the title of his work, Scintilla Lux, references a small flash of light - like a flash on a camera.

"A scintilla is also a measure of light. By manipulating light using neon, essentially bent glass, blown and inserted with a special gas, viewers can be transported to an experience of space where the concept of time is almost obsolete."

The exhibition includes two newly purchased works by London-based Maslen and Mehra who transform somewhat slightly battered old advertising light boxes from the London Underground into freestanding objects. Creating sculptural silhouettes made of mirror placed in a land or city scape and photographed, juxtaposes cities devoid of nature or nature devoid of people.

The duo have a strong Australian connection with Tim Maslen originally from Perth. Quin says the main thrust of the show is to combine established figures with emerging and local artists working in the same vein.

"It's a celebratory kind of show with a dynamic between generations, which really fits in with the centenary of the university very strongly."

'By manipulating light using neon . . . viewers can be transported to an experience of space where the concept of time is almost obsolete.'