Brian Eno is best known as a musician and composer, but his innovations in the field have always been accompanied by a parallel pursuit in the visual—namely, in light and video. The legendary Englishman, who’s often credited with coining the term “ambient music,” has said he’s interested in transforming light into a visceral sensation. For “Light Work” at Paul Stolper Gallery in London, he uses light installations in collaboration with ambient sound to create slow-moving systems that distort the viewer’s sense of time.
Eno, who lives and works in London, has been experimenting with light since he was 17, and the melding of mediums has always been essential to his work. “When I look back on what I’ve made over the intervening years,” he has said, “it seems to me I’ve been trying to slow music down so it became more like painting, and to animate paintings so that they became more like music.” His hope, he says, is that the two “meet and fuse in the middle.”
That synthesis is on display in Eno’s latest exhibition, which showcases six new artworks intertwining light and sound. In each light box, LEDs slowly transform in endless combinations of colorscapes. The infinite loops seamlessly evolve without a clear beginning or end—a process accompanied by ambient sounds, including a new piece Eno wrote for the show.
The transfixing light boxes—as well as two lenticular works—take on the qualities of paintings, but more. “If a painting is hanging on a wall, we don’t feel that we’re missing something by not paying attention to it,” Eno has said. “Yet with music and video, we still have the expectation of some kind of drama. My music and videos do change, but they change slowly.” Rather than aiming for fast-paced drama, Eno’s light and sound works find a majestic kind of drama, something like serenity in flux.
—L. Epp Schmidt
“Brian Eno: Light Work” is on view at Paul Stolper Gallery, London, Apr. 29–May 28, 2016.