Art against SAD

Smothered in Dickensian fog and deprived of daylight, it’s easy to feel pretty gloomy in the winter months.

Opening today at east London’s Parasol Unit gallery is the first in the Parasolstice- Winter Light series of outdoor installations, which aim to brighten up the darkest months of the year. All the works will address the phenomenon of light, exhibited throughout the winter months in the gallery’s outdoor space.

The first work is James Yamada’s snappily titled The Summer Shelter Retreats Darkly Among The Trees, which is created from the bright lights frequently used to alleviate the effects of SAD, a mood disorder that sees sufferers who are otherwise mentally healthy feel depressed during a particular season.

Yamada says, ‘London is dreadfully dreary [in winter] and everyone gets fantastically depressed. They wanted to have something outside to give people hope.’

The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees
The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees

The aluminium structure of the installation shelters visitors from bad weather. Integrated into its roof are light elements at 10,000 lux, the light intensity commonly used in light therapy to treat the symptoms of SAD.

Yamada says, ‘I’m interested in light as a therapeutic and symbolic thing – the power of light and the associations and powers of it.’

He adds that some of the ideas are influenced by the idea of a globe. ‘Ultimately [a globe] is very abstract, although we understand it’, he says. ‘On the opposite side of the world from London, in the antipodes, it’s summer.’

These warmer climes provided Yamada with the idea of using a structure that protects the occupant from the rain and sun – such as those used in primitive jungle architecture.

The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees
The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees

The artist chose to use aluminium, which was then painted to look like Styrofoam, to create an effect that looked ‘light – almost like it could blow away.’

He says, ‘It’s functional but it can be interpreted in a number of different ways. The appearance of Styrofoam is very temporary and fleeting – it’s not an eco friendly material. Where it’s situated next to the woodland the garden it frames a beautiful olive tree – it’s a nice juxtaposition.’

Juxtapositions aside, the real question is – does it work?

Apparently so. ‘We’ve been testing it out. It makes you feel good,’ says Yamada.

The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees proposal image
The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees proposal image

James Yamada: The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees will be part of Parasolstice – Winter Light 2011 which runs from 22 November  – 18 March 2012 at Parasol unit, 
14 Wharf Road, 
London 
N1

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