Since 2016, I’ve used the technique of projecting LED light on to a diffusion surface as a method of painting. Painting is the creation of images through the organization of space, which happens through the differentiations of form and color. Before I got into LEDs, I studied painting at the Arts Students League of New York. A major facet of my work has been to translate different visual concepts and considerations that come from traditional painting into the medium of light. I’ve always marvelled at a painting’s ability to offer a window into an alternate reality, and its ability to convey the artist’s unique vision and energy.
Painting for me is endlessly fascinating and I continue to find my inspiration in painters, both past and present. Two of my favourite New York painters of the last century were Edward Hopper and Mark Rothko. If Hopper was a painter of the light that fell onto objects, then Rothko was a painter of light in itself, in its most abstract, fundamental form. As Rothko’s work was a step towards light through the medium of painting, I see my own work as stepping towards painting through the medium of light.
Of course, one big difference between LEDs and paint is that LEDs are programmed. So while most painters spend their time mixing paint and handling brushes, most of what I do is type code, solve math problems and solder electronic components. My work uses the Arduino microcontroller to control LEDs. Programming offers an interesting approach to painting, because of its ability to be generative. The Arduino language has a built-in random number generator. For me, this simulated randomness has always been a fundamental part of my work because it simulates the unconscious.
Just as a painter can let his or her hand go and unconsciously apply brushstrokes to the canvas, so I use the random function to accomplish this task. Often I let the machine choose what particular color or which location an LED will light up. It is random - but within conditions that I define. In a large segment of my work, art is a field of possibility rather than one defined thing. Often I define the general structure but leave the specific articulations to the machine. I like my work to be like a campfire: the fire is always the same, yet it is never the same.
The works presented here, Bushwick Lightbox (2017-2019), Unus Mundus (2019) and Temple 5 (2020) showcase three types of light paintings that I have done in the past four years. Each was done at a different time period, each building upon one another. Each uses light to construct images in a slightly different way.
Jason Yung is a Brooklyn-based Canadian new media artist working primarily in light, using LEDs. In his light work, Yung aims to bring the visual principles of traditional painting into the 21st century by utilizing LED light as a painting medium. To this end, Yung established Bushwick Lightbox, a platform to showcase this new kind of light art to the public through pop-up street shows. Art is Yung’s second career. Previously, he was a Canadian diplomat. His experiences serving in the Afghan war led to his career change to art. Yung has strong interests in psychology, philosophy and spirituality, which is at the root of all his esthetic expression. Yung graduated from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in 2019.