Manchester based dbn Lighting has supplied a custom LED and control solution to the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery which will run for three months as part of the “Cotton : Global Threads” exhibition – a compelling story about the production, consumption and global trade in cotton.
The light work is designed by artist Liz Rideal and involves the illumination of nine large windows on the top storey at the front of the building, with video material from a film – ‘Light Curtain’ - which is played back via a media server also supplied by dbn.
Challenges included having to fit all the necessary LED lighting equipment to light the windows into a 30 cm deep space, keeping each window’s physical lighting installation completely self-contained within its recessed space.
dbn’s Nick Buckley is project managing. dbn has worked for the Gallery several times in the past, and this project started last year when they were asked to look at how the windows could be lit from inside to create the specific colouration, texturing and effects that Rideal had in mind.
A number of options were explored, from which they chose the most practical and reliable, involving Chroma-Q DB4 LED battens and Chroma-Q ColorSplit fixtures – the latter offer a double bank of RGBA LEDs.
First, the windows were all masked precisely with frosted gel.
There are four of each type of fixture per window. The ColorSplits are positioned at the bottom of the window on the ledge with diffuser lenses lighting the lower half of the surface area. They are focussed and angled to minimise any hot spot areas.
The DB4s are rigged onto crucifix shaped pieces of scaffolding, and highlight the top half of the window. The metalwork is propped into the window area with scaffold-jacks and all contained within the 30 cm depth of the window frame.
Each window is about three metres high and 1.5 metres wide, and all the lighting fixtures have been optimised to produce the smoothest, most even coverage of the target surface.
The installation took two days to complete, and was diligently executed. Another requirement was that it did not damage or impair the glorious Victorian fabric of the building – which is listed – in any way. However, dbn is used to working under these exacting conditions.
Limited power was also a challenge, but one of the beauties of using LEDs is that the entire installation runs on three 13 Amp sockets ….. with plenty of headroom.
Rideal’s films are also being projected onto two screens in front of the building each evening, bringing the vibrancy, suggestion, detail, colour, textures and movement of cloth production and the creation of saris to the imagination of viewers.
The same footage is played back via a Hippo Critter media server through the LED units, animating the windows and enhancing and extending the visual impressions, perception and experience of the work to encompass the whole building.
Says Nick Buckley, “It is a real pleasure to be working with Luke Lovelock and his team at Whitworth Art Gallery, in a real combined effort as well as with Liz Rideal, whose work is accessible and highly acclaimed. It took some ‘out of the box’ thinking to achieve what she wanted, but the results create something completely unique and different for public enjoyment.”