photography by bill millett, glasgow
fragmented light
black light
video paintings



How Nature paints with light

We see the world, but we dont see the particles of which it is composed, unless we look through a microscope or a telescope, from the pillars of creation (eagle nebula) to decomposing fruit.

For me two painters capture the light/colour of nature, one was looking through a microscope (Kandinsky) the other a telescope (Rothko). Rothko's paintings are silent just like the 'monk by the sea" by Casper David Freidrick (1809) with the distant echo of nature. Where as Kandinsky's work is like sitting through a symphony as it reverberates and falls silent awaiting the next section. Now to bring another artist in to the equation Olafur Eliasson, viewing the Artificial sun at the Tate 2003 illustrated the power that light had in evoking emotion. The work seemed to encompass the showmanship of Kandinsky as well as the meditative action of Rothko's work, neither makes a statement nor alienates the viewer. The work is not completed till the viewer occupies the space where visual osmosis takes place. As Honour & Fleming (2005) "point out the work had the potential to draw members of the public into itself, that they became a constituent part of the very spectacle they were admiring". Obviously, Honour & Fleming are referring to the reflection of participants on the ceiling. However the observation, illustrates the emotive aspect of such a work and how it alters the norm.

Hence my interest in light, I always preferred to look at the rays of light falling on the internal wall as they mix and form abstract shapes devoid of rhetoric, rather than the stained glass. I suppose the the analogue with ambient music springs to mind. In a sense John Cage used silence as a blank canvas, the work comes to light as the silence is broken by ambient sounds that create the work; nature will always fill a vacuum.(John Cage 4'33) For me a image is always in flux it is never fixed the work evolves dependent on the psychological/ physical context, there is never closure context affects the perception of the abstract fields of colour. Just like the first cinema; no not Lumie're brothers, but sitting round the camp fire listing to the traveling story tellers as the dwellers watch the transient chimeras form and disappear and reemerge in the flames.

Rothko believed that his art could free the unconscious energies previous liberated by mythological images. His colours are opulent and subtle, the forms glow and throb as the spectator stands before them on the brink as it were of a luminous void". (Honour & Fleming 1983) . Just like the flames or nature Kandinsky harmonized the forms and placed to resonate he developed an intricate theory of geometric figures and their relationship (see Point and line to place). He was fascinated by the expressive power of liner forms.As Kandinsky wrote "Colour is a means of exerting a direct influence on the soul" (Kandinsky 1912).

Pillars of creation

The Hubble space telescope an 8ft aperture telescope capturing high resolution images like the Pillars of creation, Eagle nebula. Hubble illustrates how nature paints with light. It brings to life the thoughts of Spinoza, how would Turner have responded to its images not even John Martin could capture such drama.

Visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Light has a wave length just as sound has, on differing scales. Light which is emitted and absorbed in tiny particles is called photons, colour derives from the spectrum of light interacting with the spectral sensitivities of light receptors. However, the colour of an object depends on both the physics of an object in its environment and the characteristics of the perceiving eye. Thus, objects can be said to have the colour of the light leaving their surfaces. The viewers perception of the objects colour depends not only on the spectrum of light leaving the surface, but also on a host of contextual cues.


Qualia, that subjective conscious experience as Daniel Dennett writes "qualia the way things seem to us. Goeth was interested in the way in which colour was perceived by the individual rather than the scientific optical phenomena of colour. The cognitive aspects of qualia open many philosophical doors, which still remain open. Similarly, neuro aesthetics may deconstruct and persue a reductionist process but it can never answer the question, for art is not objective it is subjective. One of the leaders in this new field of enquiry Semir Zeki attempts to understand the relationship between brain activity and aesthetic appreciation. Namely, the medial orbitofrontal cortex(mOFC), that bit just above your eyes (no not the third eye). It also plays a part in reward/pleasure and judgment;sadly some art critics may be devoid of such a control center or maybe not? Nevertheless, the discipline of neuro aesthetics is important. However,assuming that one can objectively look at subjective experiences is questionable. This makes the appreciation of art and execution of art a mechanical process no more than homogenized synapses and kinetics Where as Elisons purposely shows the mechanics of the artificial sun, yet we still see beyond this, and immerse ourselves.

Zeki points out the constituent parts that illustrate the road map on viewing art, but not the people or objects or moments the individual encapsulated in their mind, that lead them to wards a process of appreciating the aesthetics of (things). The objective will never fully understand the subjective. The dynamics of a painting come to life via the viewer the artist meerly presents the keys the viewer plays the tune, each seeing a differing scene the yellow the red the blue, like a smell triggering a memory capsule. Its an illusion, an illusion of reality we construct our own meaning from the past. Just like Elisons artificial sun its an illusion the individual presented with some object, but each seeing it on their own individual psychological context. I construct transient realities the viewer associates meaning. The artist and the audience have no knowledge of what they see or think. I suppose that is the point of art the subjective overpowering the objective. You may be imprisoned but via the sublime you have the illusion of being free. Colours have become symbolic of emotions and thoughts taking on animate qualities and connotations that surpass their scientific properties. (Niamh Coghlan 2011). For example, Derek Jarmans film Blue the viewer is subsumed into the space and invited to exist within it, no complexity just a blue screen yet the viewer becomes transfixed, we dont ask why, we just listen and see.

The mind is characterized by its plasticity, its capacity to reorganize neural connections according to the experience undergone by the organism. Thus, experience can be detrimental, but experience can also prove positive. As an artist, the experiential quality is why I do what I do.


Coghlan.N (2010) New Interpretations of Colour. Aesthetica.22-26

Gamwell.L(2002) Exploring the Invisible Art, Science & the Spiritual. Princeton University Press

Honour.H & Fleming. J (2005) A World History of Art ,7th Ed LawrenceKin g Publishing. (780-781),(837-838),(926-9280.

Kandinsky.V (1922) Uber Den Geistige in Der Kunst. Munich, Kandinsky Complete wrintings on Art. London (trans)1982

Yong.E (2011) The Measure of Beauty. Eureka, The Times, Issue 25. 38-43.


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