'' I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration.''
Function of light
Purpose and function of lighting design, as well as other parts of the performance too, is to express the message or statement of that particular piece. Light should be equal participant with set design and costumes etc. and be able to use it's own methods to reach the expression needed. The basic questions of visibility and spatiality should be less important than this. The basic "lighting up the faces of actors" is not yet lighting design.
Lighting designs dramaturgy consists of changes in composition of light sources during the performance. Different performances have different kind of needs and bases. All the dramaturgical choices should always be connected to the principal message or statement and continuity is never bad solution.
For a long time I was solely all for conventional light sources only. Par 64's used to be my all-time favorites. I've always liked the quality of light that halogen bulbs emit. Softness and warmth, which can still be converted to clinical and cold.
Nowadays I admit the functionality and usefullness of other kind of light fixtures also, because you can create very interesting combinations with mixing different qualities of light. At the moment I'm actually very curious about the possibility of creating a light design using only "no color" -light but choosing different types and creating different "colors" that way.
I also find interesting the possibility of using "unconventional" light sources. -Using onstage light sources that were meant to be somewhere else, perhaps like lights used in industry and military and so on.
On the other hand, there is the question of the shadow. To me shadows are as, or maybe more, important as the light. Without shadows you wouldn't perceive the brightness so clearly because you're missing the contrast. And in the shadow you can load much more subtle information than one would ever suspect.
Tools of design and sources of inspiration
First step of engaging in to a project is to see if it carries any kind of message that interests me. If it contains something that somebody can enrich oneself with. That oneself could be me also, if the performance provides me an opportunity to try out something new, for example.
Once engaged I try to define the goals of project through discussions with the team. The to illustrate the conclusions and give them physical form, I quite often look up suitable examples from paintings or other works of "classical art". These paintings can be anything from Picasso to Turner or Repin, as long as I can find moods, that fit the message. Another approach is to paint with watercolors. Through these methods I try to visualize my ideas about the volumes, directions and saturation of the light etc.
The practical approach to present my ideas is quite often a big collage of images. I browse through loads of visual ideas in order to find the ones that best describe my feeling of the performance. When I have enough material to blow everybody's brains, I put them all together into this huge mosaic of pictures. This creates a mind-map of sorts and it's purpose is simply to emit the right atmosphere and mood.
Importance of collaboration
I'd like to think that the guidelines of a particular performance are set by the performance itself, not so by the director or the set designer hammering down their ideas. - Meaning, discussion with the team is crucial to success. By conversation everybody is able to set the common ground and goals and agree on the basic principles.
Lighting designer is not a lone rider , but more like one of gadgets in the whole machinery, whose purpose is to manufacture the end product, the performance. Respect to the others is very important and even more, respect to the people within lighting designer's own working team. You get usually better and faster outcome, if you try to avoid too much bossing around.
Forms of stage arts which interest me
I've been working quite a lot with dance, which interest me a great deal. In dance performances there is usually larger space to use light more imaginatively than in spoken drama. At best, lighting design can be sculptural and act as an additional performer on stage. The role of light can be very active.
Another genre, which I like a lot, is opera. Opera is usually considered to be of a large and elaborate scale and expectations of the audience meet these adjectives accordingly. With opera I see the opportunity to visualize great emotions and use the big machinery on full speed. Sort of quit the fiddling and paint with big brushes.
My mentors and role models
I had the great opportunity to get to know lighting designer Claude Naville just shortly before his early passing away. French-born Naville was an important figure in the development of the Finnish lighting design for nearly thirty years.
He was a rare talent who really had the ability to create illusions on stage. He taught me some very basic and down-to-earth tricks on lighting design, but also great deal about his aesthetic perception. Some of his guidelines follow me even today.
"In the western history of lighting there are names like Adolphe Appia, whose ideas I take in with great interest. Although he was set designer, he had revolutionary thoughts about the three-dimensionality of the stage elements. "Appia rejected painted two dimensional sets for three-dimensional ‘living’ sets because he believed that shade was as necessary as light to form a connection between the actor and the setting of the performance in time and space. Through the use of control of light intensity, colour and manipulation, Appia created a new perspective of scene design and stage lighting." -Wikipedia-
Outside Europe, I find very fascinating the traditions of South-East Asian shadow and puppet theater and I'm exploring the possibilities to combine some of that with western way on thinking.