CULBERT, Bill; Sunset III
Born in Port Chalmers, New Zealand in 1935, Bill Culbert was awarded a scholarship from the Royal College of Art in London early in his career, and studied there from 1957 to 1960. He now lives and works in London and the south of France.
Although trained in painting and sculpture, Culbert introduced photography to the object-based side of his practice during the late 1960s. This was part of a larger project to trace the effects of light and form through the experience of everyday objects. The photographic technique, instantly capturing these moments of daily simplicity, suited Culbert's approach.
In 1967 Culbert introduced electric light into his work. At the time, Earthworks, or 'Land art', projects, Happenings, and Conceptual Art were taking the focus away from static 'images' and focusing on the ephemeral effect of the viewer's presence in any given position. Light, and especially artificially created electric light, provided a reliable and yet ever-changing presence when affiliated with a concrete object. Since the 1960s both sculptural and photographic pieces by Culbert have explored the possibilities provided by this working method.
In Culbert's photographic works one can see parallels with the 'Light and Space' movement, established by a loosely defined group of artists from Southern California in the mid-1960s. Led by Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, and James Turrell, this group's fascination with the ephemerality and phenomenology of light has carried through to the minimalist work of artists such as Dan Flavin.
The large-scale photograph Sunset III is an example of Culbert's photographic mastery of colour. This landscape, bathed in the natural light of early evening, is juxtaposed against the appearance of a 'monstrous' wire sculpture (constructed from a tower of wire lamp shades, it resembles the skeletal structure of an enormous light bulb). The central object appears to be lit from beneath by the sunset, and as such provides an interesting link with Culbert's practice of the 1970s and 1980s. Culbert's photographic works, layered with ordinary objects - wine glasses, light bulbs, tables - explore the physical and metaphysical effects of light and shadow in the everyday world.
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