Masters of Light: Darrell Hawthorne
May 2018 - by Darrell Hawthorne
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Painters have incorporated light into their work for centuries. Whether employed to illuminate a scene or symbolize a revelation of great proportions, light serves as a formidable force in many a masterpiece.
Originally a fine art painter, Darrell Hawthorne discovered the power of light long before embarking on his career as a lighting designer. Hawthorne established ARCHITECTURE & LIGHT several brush strokes later in 1993, and since then, he has fused architectural and lighting design to forge some of the most innovative compositions the world has ever seen.
We met with Darrell to learn more about his creative philosophies surrounding light and one of the most memorable milestones of his career: illuminating a Chinese artist’s colossal yet delicate work in Beijing and Shanghai.
How would you articulate your overall philosophy about lighting?
Lighting reveals the essential nature of a place or thing while discovering its emotional content and visual structure. Simply stated, light defines a space. Shadow coupled with light turns objects and spaces into a sculptural architectural moment. It brings beauty, excitement, drama and meaning to spaces that the viewer begins to feel and react to emotionally.
What lighting method do you use in every project, regardless of the client or space?
I aim to find a way to create three layers of light and a visual focus.
Tell us about a project you’re proud of.
Artist Zheng Chongbin blends classic Chinese ink tradition with Western pictorial abstraction. Chongbin wanted to reveal the power of his monumental but inherently fragile “Wall of Skies” installation—Chinese ink on rice paper—while underscoring its mystery and enveloping the viewer as it activates and holds the entire space.
Someone recommended me to Chongbin to collaborate on the realization of the installation. After an initial meeting, we quickly became friends and Chongbin realized I understood and shared his artistic vision from which our collaboration ensued.
What lighting options did you employ to illuminate Zheng Chongbin’s art installation?
We used SORAA VIVID™ AR111 and PAR30 LED lamps when illuminating the “Wall of Skies” installation at Ink Studio in Beijing and the Power Station of Art at the 16th Annual Shanghai Biennale. SORAA’s high CRI and white quality across the spectrum revealed the elusive color embedded in the Chinese ink within the artwork unlike any other light source transforming and shaping the installation in ways we didn’t expect.
What were some lighting challenges you faced?
Convincing Chongbin that the space must be as dim as possible was one challenge. Traditional theatrical and artistic techniques of dousing and masking the light to reduce the total output to 1-2% and allowing the human eye to open up challenged us as well, but we overcame this with optimal lighting solutions.
Did the project match your vision?
Yes. It was an exciting exploration of a space and light. Perfect light and great art is the perfect combination. We always strive for the best spectral quality and SORAA truly brings all the vitamins you need to have a gorgeous outcome.