Toronto light sculptor Orest Tataryn combines neon lampworking with Venetian glass blowing to create mesmerizing works that you can almost taste. We saw some recent examples of Tataryn's work as part of a collaboration with Bruno Billio at Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel during Toronto Design Week, and then put some questions to Orest.
How did you decide on the lighting to complement Bruno Billio's installation at Come Up To My Room?
Early in the summer of 2009 at a chance meeting at an art opening Bruno Billio and I decided to collaborate in his space for the 2010 edition of the Gladstone's " Come Up To My Room " event. The decision and project direction was effortless in that I would develop and evolve one of Bruno's techniques whereby he fires a laser beam along a perfectly straight section of vertical yarn. We came up with the idea to bend light throughout the space using golden neon tubes interspersed with my signature, mathematically precise coloured incursions. Our strategy was to block the viewers' passage at the threshold of the room so one would be forced to view the installation from a single point where the yellow line appeared to be continuous when actually the electrode ends and wiring were concealed behind curtains, columns and walls.
What is it that attracts you to neon?
I love the feeling of working with fire and glass and then applying relatively modern technology to affect illumination. Neon light manufacture does not lend itself to mass production but can only be made by hand and to a specific pattern. It is also a dying craft and trade which deserves preservation. The coloured light produces an intense saturation that transforms and infects the environment it finds itself in. There are the very important challenges of working within limiting parameters such as the length of glass between electrodes, the diameter of the tubing to be processed, colour variations and electrical insulation / installation considerations. There is also a beautiful delicacy to the work, which, as an added benefit, is very energy efficient.
In your work as a light sculptor, you combine lighting with colour. How do the different colour affect what you are trying to express?
My working with coloured light is an extension of my intrigue with the production of colour in a physical and chemical manner. In 1972 I started working in a quality control lab at Northern Pigment, which was an industrial facility that concocted accurate hues from the rusting of metals. It was fascinating and large scale. In my practice as a light sculptor / painter I refer to myself as a colourist working on the effects upon the emotions of the witness. Some of my favourite aspects within these endeavours are the wonderful accidental discoveries during the course of execution.
How has your work as a firefighter influenced your art and design practice?
The seed of what I now do was in fact planted as a result of an experience during a restaurant fire back in 1987. The fire had stubbornly seated itself within the kitchen's ductwork and as we aggressively attacked for access, two neon beer signs had dislodged from their anchors and were swinging wildly through the dense smoke creating magnificent coloured moiré patterns. I physically stopped them and became enchanted at the simple elegance and beauty of this material to which, up until this point, I was completely unconscious. As for the actual influence of my fire-fighting career on my creative practice, the most that I can say is that during the hyper awareness and razor sharp anxiety response to the chaos in a crisis, a person learns to see things outside of the normal conventions of memory and contemplation. Your eyes tend to pierce through to possible outcomes. It's a desperate hopefulness that becomes reverie after the fact. My work is a personal resolution to that confusion which only light can bring.
Installation Photos: Cat O'Neill