Christine Sciulli: Circles of White Light

The Concrete Art of American artist Christine Sciulli plays with the geometries of light. Its attraction and its poetics are due to Sciulli’s outstanding sense for complex visual arrangements. Her present series of large-scale, site-specific interventions display animated white circles projected onto arbitrary surfaces. This allows the white animation lines to meander between the visible and non-visible, leading to an enchanting visual experience.

“I have always been interested in light,” Sciulli says. As a child sitting at the dinner table, she played with the light reflections of the silverware and enjoyed the interaction of light, metal reflector and space. Today, educated as a lighting engineer and as a fine artist, she understands the properties of light and the interdependency of human perception. In her works, volume,motion, shape, and color are defined by the interplay of projected light, time, space and material. Her works are a fine illustration of how light disappears from the visual sphere when it doesn’t find a counterpart to be reflected off. The luminous line has become the tool of her artistic exploration and her artistic articulation.

Throughout art history, the line has been a principle agent of visual expression. In 1926, Paul Klee wrote on a drawing: “Make visible.” He described the line as the transition zone between the invisible and the visible, as the “medium between the earth and the cosmos.” Sciulli fathoms the line as a liminal space. Working with projected lines on grass or shrubbery, she explored the transition from two-dimensional lines moving through irregular three-dimensional projection surfaces. Set in darkness, the appearance and disappearance of the moving white lines create a visual tension. Sciulli transfers the drawn line into a lit line with motion in space, time flow, and perception-responsiveness as inherent qualities.

In her present work, her focus is on circular lines. “Circles seemed to logically follow my obsession with projecting straight lines. When I saw how they run with such fluidity through the chaotic surface I was enchanted by the simplicity of the form of the circle, and how active a circle can feel.” A circle is an abstract geometric figure which divides a plane into two, an interior and an exterior. As a structure, it resonates with the on/off traits of light.

Working with abstract geometries has a long standing tradition in the arts. The roots of geometric abstraction can be found in the avant-garde art in the first decades of the 20th Century. It was an art form dedicated to clarity, structure, logical laws and its vocabulary of forms emphasized the straight line, consisting primarily of basic geometric forms, finding visual expression in mathematically pervaded compositions. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Frantisek Kupka, Robert Delaunay, and Sonia Delaunay-Terk were underway in France; the Suprematism evolved around Russian Kazimir Malevich; the De Stijl movement was constituted in Holland with Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg; and from the 1920s, geometric-abstract painting with Wassily Kandinsky and Georg Muche took hold at the Bauhaus. Stylistic features of geometric abstraction are the focus on lines, color planes, geometric basic forms and their structural organization. The same formal characteristics were furthered by Concrete Art, but Concrete Art emphasizes that it has no relation to another reality and thus does not abstract from it, but rather creates its own artistic reality. That is how works by Christine Sciulli can be read: they are based on the geometries of light and engender their own realities. The complex interplay of light and time, motion, and space, line and shape, material and perception are her building materials interwoven with the dynamics of visual structures and rhythms, of coding and programming, of information and perception. “What draws me to the circle is the arced line of light wrapping back to its starting point and how that circular line radiates out over the three-dimensional medium of the netting.”

After experimenting with geometric projections onto natural environments since 2010, she started to experiment with projections on irregular textile surfaces in 2013. Both settings allow her to explore the interplay of light and material, form, surface, transparency and reflection. Crawl was the first video projection of a single moving line onto warped planes made of a textile mesh. What started as one cohesive line, illuminated the outlines of the mesh structure and turned it into a three-dimensional pictorial structure.

The choice of mesh as building material for the light reflecting sculpture coincides with the on/off traits of light. The structure of the material is characterized by material and non-material parts. Light traveling through is only reflected by the material threads and passes invisibly through the in-between. Sciulli’s textile sculptures are surrounded by darkness and like a seismograph, her geometric projections fathom whether and where there is material and where light can travel freely. “As the circles’ light duck the warp and weft, it seems to loosen bits of itself with each thread that catches some of its photons, only to find it is stretching far and wide.”

[All quotations: Christine Sciulli. Text: Bettina Pelz]

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