Focus: Exhibition Lighting

An annotated guide to lighting an exhibition space, using the recent Emma Hamilton exhibition at Greenwich

Words by Jill Entwistle

David Atkinson Lighting Design (DALD) recently lit the Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, which runs until the middle of this month. The exhibition traces her career from rags to riches and back again through more than 200 objects, including paintings by George Romney, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

It also explores the obstacles and social barriers for a woman of her time. DALD’s brief from exhibition designer Hara Clark was for the lighting to create a series of meandering transitional scenes throughout Emma Hamilton’s life that would add a sensitive yet theatrical approach to the exhibition, as well as keeping to strict conservation constraints.

During her stay in Naples, Emma Hamilton developed her ‘Attitudes’, her idea of combining classical poses with modern allure. The Attitudes space uses digital projection to show a representation of Hamilton’s classical poses and movement. Suspended voile drapes within the space are lit by soft, dappled, warm light and carefully balanced not to detract from the digital projection

Colour, texture, tone and controlled lighting techniques are used to delineate different scenes and stages of her life, evoking different climates (northern light and Neopolitan sun) and atmospheres. Theatricality comes from projections, among other techniques: Georgian windows, water ripples, and even shadowy representations of Emma Hamilton’s classical poses and movement.

Here David Atkinson has taken just a small slice of the exhibition to show how many different techniques go to make up the composition.

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