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Warren Langley

born Sydney 1950

The use of light and reflection has been a constant in Warren Langely’s work since he began his art practice in the 1980s. In ‘… the ocean bed their tomb’ reflection is the principle design element which provides a metaphor for the single most important intent of the concept; to create pause and evoke a sense of contemplation and inquiry in the viewer about the disappearance of the submarine and the loss of its 35 crew.

Langley, a former geologist, sought out glass as his first and preferred medium, attracted by its form, materiality, aesthetic and optical qualities - reflection, refraction, diffraction and so on – the way it played with light. He experimented with form, pattern and light achieving some exciting shapes only limited by the scale of the medium.
Experimenting with bigger and bigger sheets of glass he developed a lucrative commercial technique of slumped glass sand casting which enabled him to capture gesture and almost to draw in glass. This technique was the main interpretive form in the Australian Service Nurses National Memorial in Canberra ACT, a public commission with Robin Moorhouse from 1999.
Langley gradually realised that water possessed many of the same qualities as glass. It could do the same thing as glass but in much larger scale. He began working with water and light setting up large-scale light installations around Sydney Harbour at night with fibreoptic cable. This 1990s body of work entitled glass=water=glass saw Langley working with expanses of water ‘the biggest piece of glass’ he could find to create glass-like effects in works such as #35 Light and Water composition Sydney Harbour. Initially guerrilla art projects they became planned, local Council-sanctioned art installations and public art commissions such as Mapping the tide, 2002, on Queensland’s Noosa Sound.
Langley’s next step was to take this site responsive light work out of the water into the earthscape and in 2004 he was awarded an Australia Council grant to travel to the Simpson Desert to explore readings of the landscape, from his almost innate geologist’s viewpoint overlaid with readings from the local Aboriginal community. Drift, 2006, shows a canoe image suspended above the dry riverbed at Simpsons Gap while Point in time and Memory lines reflect lineations, joint patterns in the rock face.
In the urban landscape Langleys’ explorations of light, form and histories have resulted in some beautiful and stimulating commissions around the world for site responsive works including Breathe, 2004, in the waterscape at the Museum of Contemporary art, Tacoma WA, USA where polycarbonate rods of light gently move with the winds.
Aspire 2010, in Ultimo, Sydney, is a forest of glowing golden polyethylene trees which appear to support the concrete freeway overhead, referencing both the displaced natural flora and the gritty determination of local residents to successfully preserve pockets of their suburb.
Valley, 2012, a work of repetitive stainless steel forms heralds the approach to the Swan Valley in Western Australia. It echoes a valley profile, by day it creates an interesting shadow interplay on the ground and by night the concealed lighting lights up the form.

‘… the ocean bed their tomb’ 2015
Langley’s clever and poetic melding of metaphorical and physical, abstract and referential brings us to ‘… the ocean bed their tomb’, which casts its shadow by day and night.