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Student Jan lights up Barnsley Bright Nights with £2,500 commission

Photograph: Jan Piwowarski with his winning Bright Nights artwork.

Photograph: Jan Piwowarski with his winning Bright Nights artwork.

Barnsley College student Jan Piwowarski is beaming after winning a £2,500 Barnsley Council commission to create a light artwork for Barnsley Bright Nights 2023.

The winning work – chosen amongst tough competition from fellow students Eboni Kasza and Scarlet Bradwell – was shown to thousands at the Cooper Gallery on Church Street, Barnsley, across the two-day festival on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November.

It features portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I created using LED strips and clear acrylic, which give the effect of images having been ‘drawn with light’ in one continuous motion.

Jan, who is studying the University of the Arts London (UAL) Level Three Extended Diploma Creative Practice: Art, Design and Communication, wanted to design something that took inspiration from history while being distinctly modern.

He settled on the likenesses of two paintings from the Cooper Gallery’s collection, bringing them into the present using modern means as a way of reflecting the festival’s theme of ‘connect’.

Jan said: “As this was my first commission as an art student, it was a huge opportunity for me but I didn’t take into account how challenging it truly was going to be. I faced having to constantly change something every week, saying, ‘yes that may look good but am I pushing myself to create this project to its fullest potential?’

“Thankfully, my mentor Amanda Stoner helped me and gave a helping hand. With all the plans and ideas on paper, the acrylic was bought, the bases were made and with four days before the deadline it was all ready.

“This was a lesson to me as to how the real world is, it’s not a walk in the park – there will be challenges ahead that you will have to face. I’m glad I was able to experience this personally and will take it into consideration in the near future as a lesson.”

How did Jan feel when he found out his work was chosen?

“Thrilled, gobsmacked, shocked, ecstatic, you name it. I felt happy, when I first saw it all set up and lit. My piece of art that I had made, came up with, was going to be shown to the public the next day, and when the next day arrived all my friends and family came down to see it and I don’t think I’ll be able to relive a happier moment in my life than this.

“Everyone was smiling and in awe as to how great it was, and telling me how proud of me they are. I just couldn’t stop smiling for the next two days about it.”

Amanda Stoner, Barnsley Museums Visitor Services Assistant, mentored Jan as he worked on the two pieces. She said: “The two pieces were shown inside the Cooper Gallery’s Gallery 6 on Friday and Saturday night, for the Bright Nights festival.

“His design really made the most of the ‘painting with light’ idea that the festival is about.

“It was a pleasure to work with Jan. He is a bright young man and I think he has learned a lot from being part of the process.

“It was nice to see them completed and lit on Friday evening and we believe that close to 3,000 people saw them on the two nights.”

Jan’s commission caps Barnsley College’s eventful contribution to Bright Nights, which saw the Urban Park at Old Mill Lane host the towering videogame-inspired experience Light Looper and delight thousands of visitors.

Last updated: 30th November 2023

Originally posted on: 30th November 2023

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