It is very difficult to understand light drawings without seeing them in person. Imagine a black line drawing on a piece of white paper. The lines form circles, maybe four of them, each drawn with the aid of a compass. Each has a different diameter, is placed in a sequence of larger to smaller with each circle intersecting at least one other circle. Our ability to understand the convention of perspective in a two dimensional drawing suggests that the circles exist in space and that they are actually the same size but as they recede in space they get smaller. However, there is something different about this drawing. As you move in relation to it the circles change position as well as if they exist in real space. Now, reverse the black and white so the lines are white on a black surface. This is what you see when you observe a light drawing in person.


Everything we observe has at least one thing in common. Things can only seen because of the presence of light. When light shines on the black line drawing on a white background the light is reflected off the white surface and absorbed by the black lines. With a light drawing this happens in reverse. The lines we observe are actually formed by the light reflecting off scratches in a sheet of plastic that has been painted black on it’s back side. The scratches are made by hand with the aid of compasses. Due to the curvature of each scratch it will reflect a single light source as a point of light. When the scratches are placed close enough together and each reflects one point of light they appear as lines but each point continues to have a relationship to the viewer in addition to the relationship that they have to each other.


This relational characteristic can be observed in videos or in person even with one eye closed. It is probably the reason that four people, so far, who have each had an eye condition from childhood that has prevented them from seeing depth, has told me that they can see these light drawings as three-dimensional. However, when observing them with two eyes something else occurs. The fact that our eyes are separated by several inches causes the vision from each eye to be slightly different. This is called stereopsis and is the other major factor in our ability to observe “reality” as three-dimensional. With light drawings this means that each eye sees each point of light at a slightly different angle causing our brain to process the image as if it was three-dimensional. The reflected light appears to float in space either in front of or behind the picture plane. It also seems to have different focal points caused by the radius of each scratch.


This image is known as an abrasion hologram or sometimes a scratch hologram and, to my knowledge, it has not been used prior to this as a medium of creating art. This really is “new”. It also challenges us to reconsider many things about our understanding about art, our relationship to it and to each other. However, one of the most amazing qualities of these light drawings is that they also demonstrate a controversial concept of quantum physics – that our reality is actually created when our observation establishes one result (particle) out of all possible results (wave).


I have chosen to limit the shapes in these pieces to combinations of circles against a black background. There is no actual limitation that prevents exploring other shapes and other backgrounds, though, for now, I believe that the simple reductive geometric abstraction serves to focus our attention on the essential qualities of the medium. In fact there are so many possibilities for this medium that I am really looking forward to continuing the exploration of it for some time.


James Minden