Sculpting with light |

A photographer by training, Damien Bénéteau creates art dedicated to light, capturing it in a way that renders it nearly tangible

Damien Bénéteau gave up a successful career as a fashion and architectural photographer to pursue his passion to sculpt with light. The French artist is exhibiting his latest kinetic light sculptures, in a show titled Optical Variations, hosted by MB&F M.A.D. Gallery, which specialises in mechanical art devices.

The hypnotic sculptures combine oscillating pendulums and pulsating lights to create a beautiful play of intense white light on deep black metal surfaces. The circular shapes of the structures, the rhythmic movement of the pendulums powered by invisible magnetic forces and the play of light and dark reflect the mysterious, mystical feel of the cosmos and have the mesmerising effect of looking at the heavenly bodies in the night sky.

Optical Variations will run at MB&F M.A.D. Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, until April 30.

Bénéteau’s training as a photographer triggered his fascination with light and shade, especially its effect on our perception of space and volume. “I once did a project where I photographed white balloons suspended in a white room and lit only by a skylight. This got me interested in how an object’s volume is perceived in various lighting situations and motivated me to move from simply capturing images of light and shade towards using light itself to create three-dimensional works,” he says.

The movement in his sculptures produces optical illusions and retinal persistence, giving his works depth and transforming light into a tangible element. The artist has taught himself to use various machines and creates the kinetic mechanisms for his artworks himself.

“Each sculpture takes up to six months to create and most of this time is spent experimenting with the effects of light on different forms. Each piece begins with a sketch of various forms. I then hone the technical details digitally. I make every piece in my own studio using milling, polishing, cutting and metal turning machines to create them. I prefer to work with aluminium because anodising the surface of this metal creates a deep black, which shows a full spectrum of all the nuances of grey when illuminated with LED lights,” Bénéteau says.

His latest series is about changing the perception of volume with light and movement. In pieces such as Spatial Variations and Spherical Variations, a slowly undulating metal ball moves along its defined course, while throwing light and shadows on the surrounding space, almost as if the light is alive and breathing. In Length Variations, the artist has played with a moving light source, passing through a concave structure, which catches and reflects the light in a brilliant flash, like a lighthouse signal. In other works, such as Dark Variations and Elliptical Variations, the light emerges from the centre of the sculpture, spilling out over the surface, like an inner glow illuminating the…

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