Bill Culbert

Aotearoa New Zealand / England / France, b.1935, d.2019

Reflection 1

  • Purchased 1988
  • Light bulb, mirror glass and wood
  • 320 x 320 x 150mm
  • 88/01
  • 1971

Bill Culbert’s high school art teacher asked his students to stand in a dark room, then went outside. The sunlight streamed through the keyhole, projecting a tiny image of him – upside down and waving – on the room’s far wall. From that moment, Culbert was excited by light’s power to transform how we see the world. These sculptures were some of the first he made exploring the possibilities of electric light. In Celeste, he placed a lightbulb into a dark box full of tiny holes, then put that inside a bigger Perspex box so that it generates multiple ‘ghost’ bulbs on the outside. Reflection 1 tests the line between reality and illusion, as another bulb repeats itself into infinity. Culbert liked ordinary, everyday materials best, believing they left more room for the imagination.

(Wheriko - Brilliant! 17 May 2019 – 16 February 2020)

earlier labels about this work
  • In Reflections 1 William (Bill) Culbert explored the aesthetic concepts of light, shape, space and energy. He is asking the viewer to take a fresh look at the common light bulb and think about the phenomenon of reflection.

    From the early 1970s Culbert made works exploring the qualities of light by ‘capturing’ it within light bulbs, wine glasses, lampshades, window frames, fluorescent tubes and plastic bottles. This use of such common consumer objects relates to the idea of the ‘ready-made’, pioneered by artists such as Pablo Picasso (1881 -1973) and Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).

    Culbert was born in Dunedin and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts from 1953 to 1956. He left New Zealand in 1957 on a National Art Gallery scholarship to study painting at the Royal College of Art, London. Culbert was one of New Zealand’s most internationally recognised artists. He exhibited widely in international venues, including the Millennium Dome, London. He died in 2019.