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Hanz Kotter | Point of View
Patrick Heide Gallery, 23 Nov 2017 -
Review by John Stephens, March 2018
There’s been an abiding preoccupation by artists over the history of Western art
with the effects and representation of light; from the use of reflective gold leaf
to represent the light emanating from halos surrounding the heads of holy figures,
through Giotto’s development of chiaroscuro techniques during the 14th century, and
later Caravaggio’s dark and moody paintings, to the impressionists and post-
Working with actual light has a much shorter but nevertheless significant history that goes back to the Russian Constructivists of the early 20th century and, developing via the Bauhaus and Minimalism, today offers opportunities for artists to engage in a range of diverse practices using light. One could, however, perhaps divide these recent practices into two kinds: one in which the artist might use light to affect a site, perhaps an architectural space; Dan Flavin or James Turrell spring to mind; and one in which the artist constructs images or objects using light; Mario Merz, Barbara Kruger or Tracey Emin, for example. This latter practice has been greatly facilitated by the development of the neon tube that can be shaped and configured to almost any design. And while the artist was once dependent on the commercial availability of the colour of fluorescent tubes, these now offer a greater range of colours and it would seem that the newer light emitting diode (LED) offers an even wider palette of light colours. The availability of computerised switching (DMX) technology has enhanced this to facilitate the creation an illusion of movement, mood and space.
Hans Kotter, in this, his fourth exhibition at Patrick Heide, builds on a considerable body of work going back to the early nineties, and his first experimentations with light and colour in his photographic works of that time. The centrality of light to his work is perhaps best explained by the artist himself:
There is no other element with such a lasting impact on life on our planet as light. Light fascinates me in a huge variety of ways and I have investigated the medium of light, with its composition, physical contexts, colours, perception and cultural history for many years. The experiences and insights resulting from this investigation are later implemented in my works.
Zinsmeister, Annett In the Deep Rapture of Light and Colour in Hans Kotter, Light Flow, at Patrick Heide, London. Global Affairs Publishing, Bonn, Germany 2011(?)
Gallery installation view with Fractal and Point of View. 2016 Both metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass. Photo: Patrick Heide Gallery
Showing a number of wall-
Each of Kotter’s works has at its heart a simple geometric system that is used to
organise and arrange LEDs that become the main component of his works. A central
work to the show is the eponymous Point of View. Supported by a metal stand but also
with the potential to be hung from the ceiling, it is constructed as an open cuboctahedron,
formed of a cube with a four-
Detail Point of View. 2016 Metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass. Photo: John Stephens
Fractal, a wall-
and seemingly disappearing into infinity within it. A grid-
Detail Fractal. 2016 Metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass Photo: John Stephens
Detail Beyond Light (diptych) 2015 Metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass Video: John Stephens
The diptych Beyond Light is a simpler work consisting of ‘shelves’ of rows of light
that fan out into the box. Using DMX technology, the animated light appears to open
up and lead your eye into a series of horizontal planes stretching into a deceptively
deep box. Again, it was a fascinating and cleverly-
Detail Beyond Light (diptych) 2015. Metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass. Video: John Stephens
Upstairs were a couple of pieces; Light Code ”Black” and Twin that potentially worked within the gallery space to create a light environment. I say potentially because, had the room been darkened and had the pieces been shown on separate walls, they could, through their emission of light, have had a much more affective interaction with the space.
Light Code “Black” is a two-
Installation view with Light Code White and Black. 2015/16. Both metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass. Photo: John Stephens
Detail: Light Code Black and Light Code White, 2015/16 Both metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass Photo: John Stephens.
Of Twin, only one panel was shown; it consisted of a long oblong shallow mirrored
box, a few centimetres in depth, leaning at a steep angle against the wall. Controlled
by a DMX switch, coloured LEDs arranged within its edge cast a shimmering glow of
colour onto the wall. The piece should have comprised two adjacent mirrors with the
light spilling either side of the pair. However, it too suffered, not only from
being too close to Light Code “Black” but also from being in an over-
Gallery installation view with Light Code White and Light Code Black 2015/16. Both metal, LED, DMX controller, Plexiglass and Twin 2016 (one panel only), Stainless steel light box, LEDs (colour change) and remote control. Photo: Patrick Heide Gallery
Details, Twin 2016 Stainless steel light box, LEDs (colour change) and remote control. Photos: John Stephens
The history of art contains within it quite a long and slow emergence of a relationship between technology and art. It’s a phenomenon that has exercised not only a number of artists, but also writers and critics, particularly since the discovery and use of the glass lens. The relationship has been somewhat tricky; there seems to have been something of a reluctance to acknowledge it. With the development and proliferation of new technologies, that relationship has become more obvious, but still, artists have had to wrestle with maintaining a balance between the benefits that specific technologies offer their art, so that ultimately it’s the art that speaks. This show demonstrates Kotter’s very adept ability to face this challenge with ingenuity and confidence; his handling of this light technology has produced some very beautiful and fascinating works.