Thursday Salute to Originals: Prismatic Lightpaintings

Can you make a blank wall appear multi-dimensional without any paints, pencils, or inks? Artist Stephen Knapp is transforming the way we view and perceive space, depth, and dimension with his rare and beautiful light paintings. Lightpaintings are a new form of art incorporating aspects of paintings, architecture, and sculpture; yet no media other than a special form of glass and light bulbs are used in the creation of his works. Likewise, no pre-formatting or programming is involved in the installation of the art. Instead Knapp works instinctively and methodically, placing each piece of glass just right to create his light displays.

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Discovered in the late 1800’s, dichroic glass is comprised of extremely thin layers of various metals like gold, silver, aluminum, titanium, chromium, etc. The metals are vaporized by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber, which gives the glass metallic coats acting as a ‘selective prism’. The glass helps separate and focus light into specific wavelengths of the spectrum. In his studio, Knapp cuts, shapes and polishes the glass to his liking, enabling him to both reflect and refract light onto different surfaces or in defined areas.




Knapp’s passion in creating his lightpaintings lies in his desire for viewers to visually explore what the mind is unprepared to see. In the video below, he explains how the mind has adapted to seeing paintings, photography, and other art forms, but it has no visual memory of what it’s about to perceive in his work. Knapp’s goal is to let viewers be taken away for a brief moment, perhaps to images of a meadow, or a sky, or a sea. The lightpaintings have the ability to distract viewers from their everyday routines and their electronic devices; to let their minds wander imaginatively.

This Thursday we salute Stephen Knapp for challenging our perception of space and dimension; questioning the concepts of tangibility and transcendence; and forcing us to ask ourselves what is real, what is not, and if it actually matters?

Sources: Stephen Knapp, LightpaintingsThe History of Dichroic Glass, The Creators Project, This Is Colossal, YouTube