Derek Ventling


The resonance of the unseen

The genesis of Derek Ventling’s practice-led thesis Illuminativa – The Resonance of the Unseen lies in an account written nearly 800 years ago by St. Bonaventure, connecting four distinct realms of human essence: making, sensing, thinking and wisdom.  For Bonaventure, this cognitive journey is guided by light; working from the metaphorical/spiritual to the literal/corporeal, leading us to discover successively higher realms of thinking.

This succession of making, sensing, thinking and wisdom is remarkably similar to the processes of contemporary creative enquiry — a congruence that Ventling finds intriguing as a creative artist. “If illumination is the pivotal factor that may precipitate unexpected ideas,” syas Ventling, “then it is worth exploring light in the context of artistic endeavour. On our journey of exploration, light may be the catalyst that we require to reach out to the not-yet-known, bridging the real and the imaginary, the material and the immaterial, the seen and the unseen.”

His practice unfolded as a heuristic enquiry, as he set out to probe the influence of metaphysical light on the conscious, artistic self. Through experiments and observations, Ventling contemplated his own subjective perception of the sensate resonance of light.

According to Ventling, “I am a persistent craftsperson, so I began a process of exploration with manual making and improvising, assembling artefacts with a variety of hard, soft, shiny, textured, liquid and transparent materials. I immersed myself in these orchestrated assemblages, moving and observing, initiating a slow dance within the light, its reflections and shadows. Cloistered in this embodied experience, I captured photographs of the evanescent moments that unfolded.”

Over the course of these evolving experiments, he compiled a volume of distinctly intuitive, spatio-temporal photographs. Upon reflection, he realised that he wanted to reintroduce the sense of ephemerality by sequencing images into a deliquescent order of controlled transitions. Ventling also realised that he wanted the viewer to experience a similarly physical interaction with light and space. Based on this thinking, his thesis advanced towards creating installations that progressively sought to link the physical and ephemeral as an embodied viewer experience.

He designed three installations over three years. His video sequences were projected, along with sound, first on and through cloth banners, and later into spaces lined with silver leaf. “I did not want these installations to be didactic,” says Ventling, “but aimed to portray light as a delicate and atmospheric agency to be perceived emotionally.”

As the light ebbed and pooled with the projected sequence of images, it seemed to dissolve the boundaries and dimensions of the installation space, and of the viewer themselves. In Ventlings mind, the ambivalence of these experienced installation spaces opened up a state of possibility, a realm of imaginative visions that transcended limitations. By allowing the beholders to consider his ideas in an experiential manner, he hoped that they might also be challenged in their boundaries of consciousness and existential reality.

“Mediating between internal insights and external connections, light can be a vitality of possibilities; the vanguard of new ideas, or coming-into-being”, observes Ventling. “Light is a treasure that scintillates in atmospheric diffusion; a visible and invisible providence — a resplendent promise that envelopes us and challenges us with the resonance of the unseen.”

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to publish images or illustrations with their papers in CDR; neither editors nor publishers of CDR accept responsibility for any author’s/authors’ failure to do so.

© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021