Digital artist Linda Loh’s works offer otherworldly landscapes of unfamiliar geometry and vibrant colour that will leave you mesmerised. Underlying these visually impressive creations however, is a curious mindset that encourages us to consider how we can go beyond physicality to embrace transcendent experiences.
Elizabeth P. Harris | Ed. Peter Traynor | 24 October 2021
A citizen of the world, Linda Loh was born in the regional Australian town of Korumburra and has worked and lived in Melbourne, New York, London, and Edinburgh. Loh studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and the School of Visual Art in New York, where she received her Master of Fine Art (Computer Arts) in 2021.
Loh transforms everyday sources of light into luminescent manifestations of colour that explore concepts of infinity, ephemerality and immateriality. Most often taking the form of shimmering and shifting mirages, Loh’s work stems from an attraction to digital art as ‘art that doesn’t exist’. Intriguing to the eye, Loh’s works are more than just their lustrous aesthetic; her practice is influenced by an interest in experiences of transcendence and the concept of the”‘technological sublime”, extending the Romantic Sublime movement into our digital world to evoke sensations beyond the limits of reason.
2 – 30 October 2021: SPACE:LIGHT Alternate Reality at The Plaxall Gallery
Artist, Title work (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.
Linda Loh, Beyond Agog (2021) video 02:41 min. based on the VR work Agog (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.
Linda Loh’s contribution to the Agora Digital Art Pavilion for thewrong biennale is Beyond Agog (2021), a work incorporating two of her 3D objects (Agog Spiral and Lure Sphere). The video is derived from Loh’s recent virtual reality project, Agog, which is an exploratory experience in which participants can roam a landscape of towering, colour-saturated forms. Drawing on her interest in the Romantic Sublime – an art historical movement that emphasises overwhelming phenomena and feelings beyond rational comprehension – Beyond Agog places “little humans in huge landscapes”.
The video takes viewers through a disorienting universe of light. Refracting colours and humming, reverberating sounds surround the viewer as they are taken on a vertiginous flight. Encounters with mysterious forms and structures are fleeting as one scene melds into another. Planetary shapes and organic spirals evoke something of the natural world but trick the eye and the mind as they reveal themselves to be something else entirely.
Although the terrain of Beyond Agog is unrecognisable, the sense of endlessness is familiar to Loh from her travels in the Sahara and the Himalayas – Agog (2021) acknowledges the fear that limitless environments evoke while highlighting their beauty, encouraging us to adopt an open and accepting outlook, such that we are enveloped (rather than overwhelmed) by the void. While Loh says she does not expect that people will have mystical experiences within her work, “the ideas [of awe and wonder] are there”, offering an opportunity to connect with something beyond our physical selves.
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Linda Loh, Tri-light (2021). Video, 1:56 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.
Loh has a personal interest in a meditation school that finds its origins in Neoplatonic philosophy. When asked about her meditation practice, Loh explains “It’s about interior space, and where you go when there is an infinite sense of boundarylessness, which is something you can achieve with meditation”. This fascination with the “body as a vehicle” for the mind and psychological and spiritual experiences translates fluently into her practice, as viewers of her VR works are offered opportunities to connect with the sense of vastness and magnificence that typifies the Sublime.
Loh identifies a link between this sense of boundarylessness and emptiness with the history of the Romantic Sublime; her favourite painting from the movement is Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). Loh has travelled to Dresden to the outlook which purportedly inspired Friedrich, and undertook a personal ‘quest’ to the Kunsthalle Hamburg to see the painting.
Lure (excerpt) from Linda Loh on Vimeo.
Linda Loh, Lure (2014). video, 7:21 minutes. © Courtesy of the artist.
Produced during a residency at Cherrycake Studios in Penang and first presented at the 2014 Blindside Screen Series exhibition Autonomy, the work Lure (2014) is typical of Loh’s output, exemplifying the allure that light holds for her. The concept for Lure springs from a humble two-dollar LED globe that Loh found in a hardware store; encountering this simple beacon again and again in the Chinese lanterns that hang in the streets, Loh says she was “set off on quite a trajectory” as she worked.
Shifting, overlaid circles evoke the mesmerising pigmentation of the human eye or the rotating click of a camera lens. In resembling both the biological and mechanical receivers of light, Lure acts as both a window and barrier to an ephemeral, radiant world. Lure incorporates layers of photos of Loh’s paintings, adding depth and a human touch to an otherwise mystical and intangible work that seems ever out of reach with its chameleonic colours and form.
Feral Kettle at West Projections Festival 2019 Melbourne, Australia from Linda Loh on Vimeo.
Linda Loh, picture of the Installation view of Feral Kettle (2019). Video, 0:54 minutes. © Courtesy of the artist
Feral Kettle (2018)
Feral Kettle (2018) – like Lure – is an example, says Loh, of ‘how it seems every residency I do, I get attached to one mundane everyday item that becomes the focus for my work’. In this case, the object was a transparent, LED-lit kettle that formed the physical and mental hub of Loh’s kitchen during her residency in Finland. Projected onto the window of a homewares store for the West Projections Festival in 2019, Feral Kettle shimmers and reverberates as the bubbling water refracts artificial light. It is a dance of vibrant colour in water, a small world of action and activity contained in glass. However one conceives of Feral Kettle, the constant is a sense of energised electricity.
Linda Loh, Burner (2014). Video, 1:18 minutes. Courtesy of the artist
With its smouldering red hues and slowly morphing concentric rings of radiating heat, Burner (2014) is less frantic than other works by Loh. Installed at magnificent scale during the Digital Graffiti Festival in Florida in 2016, Burner blazed on the surface of the building onto which it was projected, placing a layer of volatile colour onto an otherwise stable and stolid form. Speaking of the projection, Loh says “I love the scale that projections can bring to a work that is otherwise immaterial”, drawing the transient form of light and digitality into our physical world.
VR Exhibition in Hubs Mozilla
In 2018, Loh was an artist in residence at both Arteles Creative Centre in Finland, and NARS in New York City. During this time, Loh undertook a pivotal shift in her practice by consolidating her focus on the digital.
While studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Loh received multiple accolades for academic and creative excellence, speaking to the intellectual and philosophical rigour that permeates her practice. Loh’s work has been exhibited three times in the SVA’s Fall Exhibition at SVA Galleries, located in the heart of New York City in its Flatiron district.
Left to Right: Benton C Bainbridge, Collin Mura-Smith, Linda Loh, Valerie Guinn Polgar.
2021, Agog-alyptic, NewArt City, Online
2021, Beyond Agog, Cool Change Contemporary, Perth
2021, ContinuED Project Space, School of Visual Arts, New York City
2019, Celestial Bodies, Seventeen Studios, New York City
2019, Painting in the Landscape, Alternating Current Art Space, Melbourne
2021-2022, The Sublime 3.0: Fear and Awe, Agora Digital Art x thewrong biennale nr5, London, UK
2021-2022, Essence/Absence, curated by @matteocampulla, thewrong biennale nr5
2021, Before We Begin, Again, SVA MFACA Thesis Exhibition, SVA Galleries, New York City
2020, Pulling Down the Heavens, SVA MFACA Exhibition, SVA Galleries, New York City
2020, Looking Forward While Looking Back: A Part of it All, NARS Foundation, New York City
2020, Chromatophores, SVA Galleries Juried Exhibition, New York City
2020, Light Windows, Holocenter and various locations, New York City
2020, PROJECT(ion), Oxford Film Festival, Oxford, Mississippi
2019, West Projections Festival, Melbourne
2019, Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Melbourne
2014, RMIT Lightscapes Project, White Night Festival, Melbourne