Project by: Pirelli Hangarbicocca
Place: Milano, Italy Photographer: George Darrell
Publications: Yatzer February 18 2020
An immersive sensory experience awaits visitors at Milan’s Pirelli HangarBicocca courtesy of Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, whose largest-ever solo exhibition “....the Illuminating Gas” fills the former industrial facility with suspended neon sculptures and distended soundscapes. Unfolding across 5,000 square-metres, 24 monumental installations, earlier sculptures and new productions synthesize a complex constellation of light and sound that showcase Wyn Evans’ exploration of these ephemeral mediums, highly refined aesthetic and enduring preoccupation with the subjective nature of perception. Taking advantage of the artist’s practice of repeating visual and textual sources across different bodies of work, and his predilection for light as his materia prima, curators Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí have imbued the exhibition with formal cohesion, theatrical continuity and operatic drama.
Starting his artistic career as a filmmaker, Wyn Evans gained acclaim for his experimental films before turning, in the 1990s, to sculptures, installations, photographs and performative interventions that focus on language and perception. Underpinned by a cinematic sensibility, his work draws from a diverse body of references and quotations, from literature, to music, to astronomy, which he decontextualizes and translates into an ethereal language of light and sound.
His concept-driven approach, and especially the interrelation between language and visual perception, alludes to ground-breaking artist Marchel Duchamp whose work Wyn Evans often references both formally and conceptually. In fact, the title of the exhibition, “....the Illuminating Gas”, takes its name from Duchamp’s final work, Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage, (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), which he worked on for 20 years towards the end of his career. Not coincidentally, the artworks on display at Pirelli HangarBicocca also span a 20-year period, implying that everything in the exhibition, from the smallest twist of the neon sculptures, to the rhythm of the sound installations, serves a purpose.