Light Now

Light can bend and stretch, it can direct attention, alter perceptions, and reveal what is usually condemned to dwell in the shadows.

In this year’s Sydney Contemporary, MARS Gallery will present a new exhibition Light Now featuring works from three Melbourne-based artists: Jenna Lee, Diego Ramirez, and Meagan Streader. The artists consider light’s physical, psychological, and conceptual properties as well as capacity to carry layered meanings.

Jenna Lee’s new works extend upon her recent explorations of First Nation’s language, the written word, traditions of gathering, as well as intersections between First Nation’s and Japanese culture. Jenna Lee is a Gulumerridjin (Larrakia), Wardaman, and KarraJarri Saltwater woman with mixed Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Anglo-Australian ancestry. In her work, rows of dilly bags are softly suspended from the wall, each a product of an enmeshing of cultural knowledge. The composition of the dilly bags was derived during a residency in Japan in 2022 and include a combination of Aboriginal string making and (leg twisting) and Japanese paper cloth processes. The dilly bags are not only physically brightened by LEDs, but through research and teachings, alluding to light and its potential to be a vessel for cultural knowledge.

Gentrified language stained with capital like blood in a vampire’s teeth 4A & 4B, 2023, by Diego Ramirez echoes the enlightening properties of light, however, is playfully sinister in its application. This work is one of many that Ramirez made in response to the social mediatisation of the fire caused by a burst underwater pipeline owned by petroleum company Pemex in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021. The installation is comprised of two large scale black mirrors that rest side by side inscribed with neon. These forms resemble enveloping black petroleum, oozing downwards dripping and casting dark pools on the floor. Their inanimate nature alludes to vampires, its dependence on electricity akin to the creature’s incessant need for blood. Additionally, the use of mirrors alludes to the impossibility for the vampire to view its own reflection, which suggests the exploitation of fossil fuels is a mirror of our own image.

Interventions of light are playfully echoed in Meagan Streader’s new works that bend the materiality of light through refined and spatially informed sculptural forms. Streader works within pre-existing architectural constraints and employs light interventions to reorientate the viewer’s relationship to the space. Her new light towers and sculptural wall forms expel an energetic hum. The snaking neon lights and winding LEDs form an exploration of repetition and stacking of patterns and forms. The layered warm vibrations that glow white, pink, and blue elicit sensations of warmth within their energetic glow. The forms awe and wonder of light, its manipulation with a playful touch and shifting perception.

Light Now is a deep consideration of the alluring and ethereal nature of light and its potential to ways reorientate and alter perception. The exhibition is an exercise in not only the material properties of light, but its potential to enlighten, no matter how playful or revealing.

Light Now 
Sydney Contemporary – MARS Gallery Booth E03
7 – 10 September 2023 
Carriageworks, Sydney  

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