Volatile Light at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston

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Escape the showers and enjoy painting with light this summer. Volatile Light, new installation at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, features an assortment of lights whizzing and spinning about a darkened room.

“We wanted to make an exciting environment with the machines and the tiny pinpoints of light attached to them enveloping the visitors,” says David Wheeler, creative director of IOU, the organisation who created the installation. “It isn’t trying to be a planetarium, but there are obvious similarities with the crossing orbits of all the different paths we can see the lights taking.”

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I took my son along to the installation last week and he thought the machines, or ‘robots’ as he called them, were fantastic. He loved watching them whir about the room in the dark. The machines have been created from an array of upcycled materials, including windscreen wipers and bike parts.

“In the projection room this effect is continued,” says David. “I like to hear visitors describe what they see and interpret it for themselves.  Planets, underwater luminous creatures are often mentioned.”

A third room features computers and a bank of television screens with an array of illuminated toys, such as glow sticks and light-up windmills, so visitors to the installation can create their own paintings with light, as Picasso once did. My son really enjoyed brandishing his light sabre and slashing about in the dark to create a variety of images.

I wondered why David thought light was so exciting? Why does playing with light appeal to people?

“Mysterious, hypnotic a bit scary?” he says. “Perhaps we all have a moth-gene!”

Volatile Light at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston until 24th August 2013. Admission free.

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