tue 22/08/2017

Lumiere London 2016 | reviews, news & interviews

Lumiere London 2016

Lumiere London 2016

Transformed in a festival of light: memorable images of the capital from the past four days

Westminster Abbey in a new light: 'The Light of the Spirit' by Patrice Warrener© Matthew Andrews

To liberate traffic-choked city streets for pedestrians, to suspend phantasmagorical, literally high art above their heads and give a sense that London belongs to them: that’s an admirable vision, surely. Artichoke has been wowing the crowds since it brought Royal de Luxe’s The Sultan’s Elephant to town in 2006. Its festivals of light have drawn crowds and prestige to Durham in three alternate years, and to Derry-Londonderry. Could Lumiere work in as diffuse a city as London?

That would depend on what you saw and how crowded it was where you were. Last night I gave up on the installations from the back of Kings Cross up to the superb spaces around Central St Martins because the queues weren’t moving down in the tube. Overcrowding had led to switching off the lights there on Saturday night. But Friday evening in the West End was more than bearable. Tracing a route from Regent Street – underwhelming once past Janet Echelman's luminescent jelly-fish above Oxford Circus – and parallel Carnaby Street to Piccadilly (Porté par le vent’s floating, light-changing giant fish inducing a sense of childlike wonder, shame about the rubbish muzak) wasn’t that difficult. The real magic unfolded from St James’s Piccadilly down to St James’s Square, where Cédric Le Borgne’s silvery figures sat or floated towards a half-moon high above us.

Lumiere London could be whatever you wanted, and it certainly brought people together

Le Borgne’s creatures have been a fixture in Derry-Londonderry and Durham, where they guided us upwards on a concentrated route to the Cathedral. If you missed them in St James’s and landed up in Trafalgar Square instead, you’d have been disappointed to find this focal point graced only with Centre Point’s neon sign squatting in front of the National Gallery and Luzinterruptus’s underwhelming Plastic Islands. TILT’s Garden of Light, though, was just right in garish, funfairish Leicester Square.

The one to gape at in amazement was undoubtedly Patrice Warrener’s The Light of the Spirit, restoring the statues on the west front of Westminster Abbey to a psychedelic version of the kind of polychrome brightness to which their like would originally have been subjected. No photos could capture the awesome scale here. It may not have been Durham’s total son et lumière covering the whole of the Cathedral, but it worked its own magic. Finally, then, to Grosvenor Square and the smaller scale. “I don’t know exactly where I am, but I’m standing by a phone box with fish in it,” shouted my neighbour down his mobile phone in the good-humoured crowd around Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deselle’s Aquarium. This one pleased the kids and brought out the child in all of us. Lumiere London could be whatever you wanted, and it certainly brought people together. Let’s do it again.

Click on the images for larger size

Cédric Le Borgne’s silvery figures sat or floated towards a half-moon high above us

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