Raphael Daden is a Nottingham/UK based sculptor working mainly with light. His first commission was a series of large illuminated 'Cones' on West Street, Brighton, using translucent polyester resin, light and steel. Subsequent commissions have included: Swinegate Under Bridge Lighting Project (Leeds City Centre), commissioned by Public Arts Wakefield; 'A Million Years Under The Sea, a 2.5m cast resin and light sculpture for The Out-Patient Hospital in Dudley, Birmingham; and 'Light Waves', a 20m x 3m LED interactive light board for 'Artscape' Barking, in London. Raphael's work has also been shown at a number of venues as part of his work as the founder of 'Lightsource', which ran the touring 'Spectrum Exhibition of Light'
His long list of exhibitions includes 'Landmarks', at Crescent Arts in Scarborough; 'Sea' at Wolverhampton Art Gallery; 'Art from the Studio' at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery; and 'Drawing With Light' at Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford. After graduating from Loughborough College of Art and Design in 1997, Raphael began combining different materials with light. He started working in resins while casting parts of the landscape for his solo exhibition, 'Landmarks,' based on the geological make up of the earth and natural patterns of layered strata formed over time. Using resin and light to bring the landscape into the gallery space, Raphael created abstract sculptural forms which reflected the essence of the natural environment.
He developed this process by utilising raw lights such as LEDs, encasing light within resin to be experienced as a three-dimensional form. The cast resin pieces absorbed the light to become solid blocks of pure illuminated colour. New LED technology allowed Raphael to control and intensify his use of light across a wide spectrum of colours, employing computer software to generate complex colour-changing sequences and gradually developing his designs to work in the urban landscape, away from the more predictable confines of the gallery. Using durable outdoor materials involving light offered a different type of challenge to working in a gallery, but the site-specific nature of most public art also requires a response to the area and architecture around it, an inspiring task in itself.
'Light Columns' in Nuneaton, 'Circle' in Sheffield, 'Light at the End of the Tunnel' in Andover and 'Light Waves' in London were all created using LED lights and steel in combination with computer sequencing and - in the case of 'Light Waves' - motion sensors, so that the light-board reacted to the movements of passers by. These colourful interventions transformed the area for residents and visitors, while community workshops allowed students from local schools and other groups to contribute to the final designs and learn about the processes involved, creating a sense of ownership of the projects.
"It's rewarding when you transform a space and feel that you've made a real contribution towards regenerating a public area that people will now enjoy. The regeneration of public sites provides an important opportunity for communities - who may not otherwise have much contact with contemporary art - to experience and interact with innovative artwork. I feel galleries and public art can make a major contribution to the social well-being and cultural diversity of urban and rural life, particularly to the physical and aesthetic environment.
"Raphael's connection with the natural world - having grown up on the Somerset Levels - continues to inform much of his work. In 2006 a Research and Development Grant awarded by Arts Council England allowed Raphael to develop a series of artworks in response to the potential impact of climate change on the landscape, fabricating small pieces based around colour and light for galleries. He has subsequently created a series of stone carvings and a steel and light sculpture for Milnsbridge (near Huddersfield), responding to local history and affirming connections between the traditional and the modern within his work.
His latest project developing large resin casts from tidal patterns will illuminate an area of a new hospital in Northern Ireland. Patterns left in the wet sand by the ebbing tide and rock formations caused by erosion are cast directly into plaster and taken back to the studio.
Raphael relishes the all-weather battle with nature on the 'front line' of the shore, hiking for miles along the coast to find the right kind of sand ripples or unusual rocks to cast, initially in plaster and later in translucent coloured resins. His sculptures draw attention to areas of interest within the landscape while simultaneously engaging with the modern world we live in, that of coloured light, electricity, man-made substances and machine finishes.
"Both light and colour have the power to transform mood, atmosphere and meaning, generating an immediate and powerful response from the viewer. Light and colour may be easily dismissed in a world where the streets and cities are saturated by electric lights and neon signs, but my sculptures abstract coloured light from its commercial function and in doing so emphasise their uniqueness."