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Light Fantastic with Jack Wimperis

November 14, 2019

Jack is just a lighting genius. Give him a few LEDs, some pieces of street furniture or industrial scrap and he will come back, probably later that afternoon, with a lit sculpture that is invariably jaw-droppingly beautiful. He never fails to surprise in the way he marries materials and ideas and has an uncanny knack for knowing how something will really come alive when light is played into it.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself / introduce yourself?


I started my career 40 years ago as a traditional stained glass artist and developed many novel techniques for relief sandblasting of glass. I started to incorporate illumination into my pieces about 25 years ago and have subsequently built up a flourishing studio in Gloucestershire - designing and producing sculptures, installations and architectural lighting. I send work all over the world – one of the farthest destinations being Dubai International Airport, where I was commissioned to create a large-scale illuminated steel palm tree.


Where does your fascination for light come from?

This is a hard question to answer! I have worked with light for many years – designing and producing lighting for clubs, bars, cinemas and other public and residential spaces. More recently I have been commissioned to use light to create immersive environments for interesting buildings, such as historic churches, and for large-scale festivals including Boomtown and Glastonbury. I enjoy combining light with everyday materials to produce something out of the ordinary.


Could you tell us about your creative process?


Over the last 6 years I have been mainly focusing on designing public light shows and creating light sculptures. From my production studio I make a lot of work using LEDs, programmable pixel LEDs, mirrors and electric motors in order to create illuminated visuals, often in the form of giant kaleidoscopes, infinity pits and spinning pixel disks! I work between set briefs from collaborators and my own ideas for projects, combining many years’ experience with lots of experimentation!

What inspired you to make Lactolight?


Lactolight started as a statement about single use plastic waste and recycling. I wanted to further develop recent work by integrating LED technology with simple, everyday materials that are used in the most unexpected ways.

How does it work?


Each plastic milk bottle contains a single LED, which emits light when current flows through it. This technique means each of the bottles is transformed into a single pixel that, when programmed, come together to form a complete picture. The milk bottles are housed within cages, which allow me to configure and build the structure into different formats. The cages act as individual ‘screens’ made from hundreds of pixels, which then come together to create stunning abstract visuals on a large-scale.

Are you trying to say anything specific with Lactolight?


I am trying to make recycling more fun and more obvious. The trouble is, at home we dutifully sort our rubbish into separate bins, then it gets whisked away on collection day and we don’t have to think about it again. It is easy for us to wash our hands of it once it is out of sight. But it doesn’t disappear. Most people don’t realise that around two-thirds of used plastics in the UK is sent to other countries, as we produce far more than we can process at home. Sadly the plastic we send abroad often ends up dumped in landfills or burned illegally on open fires. I want to use my artwork to show that whilst we are producing all of this plastic waste, which is often not recycled properly, we can also repurpose these materials to create something spectacular from rubbish!


What thoughts would you like audiences to take away from this piece?


When you come across the installation it is not immediately obvious what the work is made from and it is not until the viewer wanders around and sees inside that they notice the red, green and blue lids, and realise they are milk bottles. I wanted to use the festival’s theme of ‘Discovery’ to highlight the plastic crisis and encourage people to be more conscious about recycling. This piece alone uses 2000+ plastic milk bottles that have been rejected from the assembly line of a local dairy near to my studio. Legislation states that before a changeover between different types of milk takes place, all bottles already inside the machine have to be disposed of to avoid cross-contamination during bottling – which creates an awful amount of waste! I hope that people viewing my work will discover how an everyday item like a milk bottle can be reused creatively.


Further information:

Follow Jack on Instagram @jackwimperislight 

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Oxford's Christmas Light Festival is brought to you by:

Oxford City Council, St. Aldates Chambers, Oxford OX1 1DS

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