Light and Color


By way of introduction this well edited video interview with Animation Artist Joost Rekveld,  in the short space of 5 minutes ,sums up his relationship to the 20th and 21st century history of animation based primarily on abstract use of light and color.

Rekveld talking about origin of “particle systems” with Whitney brothers(John and James) light and early computer animations.

some of Rekveld’s own works.

Early light animations by the Whitney Brothers ,

Five Film Exercises-1944  – produced  with by filming colored light through different shaped stencils- detailed description in youtube post.

Jordan Belson later extended this technique of animating light rather than objects in his films such as Allures 1961  and Samadhi 1967

Permutations (1966 John Whitney )& Arabesque (1975 John Whitney) early computer graphics,exploring harmonic motion as a parallel to  musical harmonies .

Snapshots from the development of  the art of moving Light :

The idea of composing light and color as an artform akin to music may have been around since the  times of the Renaissance and before with philosophers and artists such as Aristotle and Leonardo Da Vinci. (see

In the early 1700’s  Jesuit Priest, Louis-Bertrand Castel pursued his ideas of  “color organs” that created music and visual compositions. Castel designed and created a musical instrument that also produced colors associated with each note.

1893 Bishop Bainbridge started making several color organs and developed a system of congruences between notes and colors.

The  massive technological changes and artistic movements of  the early 20th century such as Dada, Surrealism and the Bauhaus  contributed much to development of abstract film and light and motion art, with pioneers such as;

Moholy Nagy, Man Ray, Oscar Fischinger, Walter Ruttman, and later Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney and many more.

Early 2oth Century Painter Kandinsky had an intense interest in visual imagery and abstraction representing sound- many of his paintings could easily be interpreted as visual music scores and imagined as abstract animations.

Abstraction in FIne Art– two diverging but parallel paths of abstraction in the spontaneous and dense “abstract expressionism” of  for instance Jackson Pollack and the comparatively minimal direction of “color field” painting of for instance Mark Rothko and somewhat related , MIro and Klee.

The 1960’s and 70’s times of new social change and upheaval saw a rebirth of the aims of synthesizing music and animated light into one artform, ‘happening’ or sound and light show, including such events and practitioners as;

Jordan Belson

The Joshua Light Show

and many many more..

into the recent 21st century:

creating projections,installations and animated film with actual light sources and optical transformations of gels,lenses,mirrors and so on has still plenty of room for development…..

Recently “light painting” has become very popular- perhaps along with the explosion of a plethora of glo-sticks and portable new led lights in all shapes and sizes. Local animation artist  Darcy Prendergast and collaborative team of “Oh Yeah Wow ” created  this light painting animation  Rippled 2011

.  & their first light painting entirely with glow sticks

The ability of digital tools to convert ,combine,synchronise and transform all types of information including sound and light sources has also given a new accessibility and extension to the concept of integrated sound and motion arts that started several hundred years ago.

some starting examples;

Berlin Animation Artist, Robert Seidel-

2004 film  “grau is a personal reflection on memories coming up during a car accident, where past events emerge, fuse, erode and finally vanish ethereally various real sources where distorted, filtered and fitted into a sculptural structure to create not a plain abstract, but a very private snapshot of a whole life within its last seconds” watch here on youtube

Robert Seidel’s first light,sculpture and animation installation  in New York 2011


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s