What Time is it on the Sun? Light and Spirituality in Contemporary Art

Lee Henderson
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This paper will focus on contemporary media-based art, specifically those practices which employ light and digital media to foster, encourage, or test the boundaries of the metaphysical and the spiritual. The characteristics of light explored will include its simultaneous visibility and intangibility, and its application linguistically to religious and spiritual practices (in such cases as the terms 'enlightenment' and 'illumination'). Various artistic practices will be discussed, including those of Bill Viola, Shirin Neshat, and Sharon Alward, and the ways in which these artists use light as both raw material and a non-material. Special emphasis will be on their use of light as an inherently liminal--and therefore inherently metaphysical--medium. Furthermore, the paper will discuss these artists and their specific works as occupying a realm of spiritual investigation and practice, and locate them between the twin artistic extremes of works which depict and works which embody. The paper will then conclude with a summation of the artist's own experience in working with light-based media from within a practice built upon strategies of contemplation and liminal spaces.

Keywords: Light-based Media, Contemporary Art, The Metaphysical, Phenomenology, Spirituality, Digital Media, Electronic Media, Installation Art, Video Art, Buddhism
Stream: Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Lee Henderson

Sessional Faculty, Department of Visual Art, University of Regina

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Lee studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design (Calgary) and the Hochschule der Kunst (Berlin)--at the graduate level, he has just completed his Master's Degree in Fine Arts with a specialization in Intermedia. His work has been exhibited in Canada, Germany and the United States, and he has studied with talented professionals including Maria Vedder, Brian Eno, and Rachelle Viader Knowles. While he maintains an active studio practice, he also teaches at the University of Regina and works closely with Canadian Artist-Run Centres and galleries.

Ref: A06P0596