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Art in the dark: the secret behind glowing installations

Art in the dark: the secret behind glowing installations
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A community of artists in Vitebsk, Belarus, is creating unusual pieces using glowing paints.
The installations provide the viewer with a dual experience, as the artwork changes once it’s plunged into darkness.

Working in total darkness is the only way artists Alexander Vyshka and Denis Pravda can create their paintings.

They use special luminous paints, which make their works come alive in the dark. Vyshka explained the reason behind their unusual choice of style:

“We look at a painting and see it in one way, get used to it and start travelling in a direction which is guided by one light. Then the light changes and suddenly we step into an absolutely different world within the same painting.”

The paint will appear differently, depending on the colour of the lights used – for example, white or ultraviolet. It seems as though the artworks spring into life once they are denied light.

Artists put their works on display in a small gallery and invite visitors to ‘ walk towards the light’. Their aim, they say, is to enlighten people so they can find new meanings in paintings and will discover something new within themselves.

One gallery visitor seemed to agree:

“In the beginning I felt sheer amazement and then the pure delight of self-discovery. So, at first we went into the room, which seemed to represent the fuss of the external world, the external things that we see. And then the light was switched off and everything lit up with new colours.”

Vitebsk was the centre of the Russian avant garde art movement in the 1920s. Its art traditions and spirit of innovative ideas are still alive today. Artist Denis Pravda is an expert in the luminous painting technique and is able to make each piece of work look unique.

He mixes traditional paints with luminescent ones to get the depth and effects he wants, then “charges” them with light.

“Some layers subside, while others appear, so the painting changes by itself,” explained Pravda. “When we direct an ultraviolet light at this painting, we see this bright painting. When we direct a bright white light on it, some colours, which we don’t see with ultraviolet light, appear.”

The works done by these artists in Belarus go beyond pure painting – they bring together painting, sculpture and light. It’s art in the dark, as if the artworks spring to life once denied light.

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