Shadowlight Artists: Rising

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Deborah Caulfield reviews the latest work by the Shadowlight Artists, presented by Film Oxford. The exhibition took place from 19 October – 10 November across two venues, Old Fire Station and Modern Art Oxford.

When was the last time you left an art exhibition with your emotional dial reset to happy?

Celebrating the Oxford based collective Shadowlight Artists‘ creative growth since their formation in 2009 with an artistically ambitious body of work, the exhibition showcased work spanning installation, painting, digital media and theatrical production.

Not a single work failed to please this reviewer.  Here are a few of my highlights.

a woman dressed in a red cloak sets out through a painted wood

Still from Little Red Riding Hood. Image © Shadowlight Artists

Among the films, L.R.R.H (Little Red Riding Hood) was a delightful animated retelling of this gruesome tale.

Although I’m not a big fan of fantasy, Undersea Adventure was so much fun I wanted to jump right in.

Wendy Belcher acted in both these films, along with Shadowlight’s other associate artists, including Abel Kasem and Sophie Henderson.

image taken from above, of three individuals lying down on a painted boat

Still from Undersea Adventure. Image © Shadowlight Artists

Having seen the documentary about stage and screen writer Russell Highsmith, featuring his collaborator Mark Ralph-Bowman,  I was sorry to miss (due to time and energy constraints) the film of his latest play Singles Night.

Mark Hemsworth’s  large-scale multi-grid photographic prints , for example 255 Ways to Fly Away, were truly breathtaking. Arguably, any one of the images would look great enlarged. However, since David Hockney made his composite Polaroid images we’ve come to understand that more is often more. Multiple views matter because it’s how we really see and experience the visual world.

Detail of 56 images in a grid of planes flying across the sky

Mark Hemsworth: 255 Ways to Fly Away. Image © Shadowlight Artists

So of course Hemsworth’s pictures are engaging and enthralling; of course we want to look at each individual image separately; and of course we then draw back to grasp the totality of the composite image, its complexity, and its simplicity. We are awestruck by the vastness of the space – the pictorial space, the wider sky, and outer space as well. It takes an artist to do all this for us.

Detail of 56 images of sunsets in an urban environment

Mark Hemsworth: Sunset. Image © Shadowlight Artists

It‘s no secret that I’m preoccupied, almost to the point of obsession, by the window/grid format. We know that a well-balanced rectangle – the golden ratio – is important for creating visual harmony, but for me the fascination goes beyond format or design. It’s also about power and control.

image of a figure sitting in a blue armchair taken through a window

Lucy Skuce ‘Blue Sash Window’. Image © Shadowlight Artists

So naturally I was captivated by Lucy Skuce’s sculptural installation Blue Sash Window. It features a real sash window that Lucy helped to build, because she’s interested in construction and domestic architecture.

A looped film is projected onto the window pane, and can be watched from both sides. It shows Lucy using a control panel to turn a wall-fan on and off. She sits down and stands up; she waves to the onlooker/observer as if to say, I know you’re watching and it’s OK, because this is Art.

Sonia Boué  collaborates with Richard Hunt, winner of the Shape Open 2017. She says that for Rising he has ‘upped the creative ante, having moved into 3D, from incorporating mosaic pieces into his paintings, to working directly onto stones. And he sings while he draws.

Hunt’s installation Rocking the Boat on the Beach, comprises a small boat sitting on a shoreline. Is it recently landed, or about to sail away? Inside the boat are a dozen or so precisely arranged decorated stones. A projected film of gentle waves provides a backdrop.

It might be the edge of the world, the beginning, or the end. Either way it’s a safer space than we might otherwise expect, because an artist was here.

Image of an installation comprising of a wooden boat surrounded by painted pebbles against a backdrop of the sea

Richard Hunt: Rocking the Boat on the Beach

As in his paintings, there is a timeless quality about Rocking the Boat on the Beach, and an ancient spirituality. It emanates tranquillity and calm, speaking to the connectedness of things, a reassurance that all will be well.


Shadowlight films are being screened at the Together2012 Disability Film Festival 2018 on Saturday 8th December.

Check out the profiles of all the Shadowlight Artists here. Keep up with Shadowlight Artists on their DAO blog here. Find out more about Film Oxford here.