Review: Lightscape

Royal Botanical Gardens
Until 6 August

Following its success last winter, a new, gorgeous exhibition of colour and creativity returns to the Royal Botanic Gardens this year.

The after dark experience that is Lightscape features a stunning array of large-scale, colour-changing, illuminated sculptures.

All but two are fresh designs. Back to captivate anew is last year’s piece de resistance, Winter Cathedral, and the imposing Neon Tree.

In all, there are more than 100,000 tiny lights on show, overlaid by music.

You can follow one of two trails through the gardens to see everything. The full experience takes about an hour and a half.

First up for my wife and I was a light installation known as Pampas grass, a large flowering plant native to South America, featuring big fluffy seed heads. Several of them were lit up in many hues.

From “fluffy” to dead straight. Next was Herbum, neon green grass tufts with stems stretching up to eight metres high, topped with red flowers.

A giant Kashmir cyprus is a huge canvass for the checkerboard effect of light and shade.

Particularly striking is Nura, which means place or country in Gadigal language. Drawing inspiration from traditional southeastern Australian tree carvings, they form an expansive outdoor gallery of glowing indigenous art.

A field of crocuses over a metre high gently sway and transform through different shades of colour.

The Fungarium are inflatable mushrooms that decorate a hill side and tiny “mushie” lights that sparkle amongst the undergrowth.

An undoubted highlight of Lightscape is known as Light a Wish. Enlarged, white fuzzy seeds “float” in the air like fairy dust, the artists visualising good intentions.

Also impressive is By the Birrarung. That is an ornamental lake containing indigenous representations of eels shaded in white light, around which is a multi-coloured neon glow.

Nearby, a giant tree and its reflection present an enormous, inspiring canvas.

Created using bespoke structures and candles, a fire garden is spread over multiple lawns.

On the ground, is an artwork titled March of the Ants, which pays respect to the environment and caring for country and community.

In a similar vein is Walking on My Father’s Country, which presents as embedded footprints and represents the generations that have come before.

It is also well worth spending time at the sound and light show, featuring towering cascades of water shooting high into the night sky, on the lake in the Gardens.

Adjacent are Water Lilies, which were out of order the night we visited.

The Orb is a large, curved structure bursting with colour created by many LED lights.

Inspired by arched church windows, The Winter Cathedral is an immersive, welcoming tunnel of light, illuminated by tens of thousands of white LED lights. It is equally spectacular when viewed from the inside or out.

Another “walk through” exhibit is a canopy of light known as Aurora, which pays tribute to the Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights.

And then you come to The Singing Forest. LED tape has been wrapped around trees, which “react” to the sound of music.

The Neon Tree is a magnificent oak illuminated in red neon strips.

And, finally, you reach a ghostly projection on a stump, the remains on a much-loved tree that stood for more than a century. It is a beautiful and eerie tribute to what was.

Lightscape is a mesmerising and most welcome addition to the fine winter offerings in this city. It is well worth seeing.

Entry is from $36 (off-peak) to $40 (peak) for adults and from $28 to $32 for children and from $128 to $144 for a family .

A single, anytime pass is $55.

Lightscape can be seen on Wednesday to Sunday nights at the Royal Botanic Gardens until 6th August, 2023.

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Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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