UV Light, an Alternative 3rd Dimension of Art?

After many years as a lapsed philatelist I made a serious effort at bringing myself up to date with GB phosphor band varieties, and to this end I purchased long and short wavelength UV lamps and started a rapid learning curve. I was immediately struck with the variation in brightness and colour under long wave UV of both the stamps and some phosphor bands, I wondered if this could form the basis for being scaled up into some form of artwork under controlled lighting conditions.

UV Light an alternative 3rd Dimension of Art

Initial trials indicated that interesting visual effects could be achieved by controlled fading of tungsten lights in combination with UV lighting. The preferred option was achieved using a programmable Futronix P50 lighting dimmer.

It was discovered, that the extra wavelength of UV light can add a further dimension to a two dimensional picture as well as an added time element due to the fading technique. Eventually this technique was used to produce three collage impressions of famous Bradfordians, David Hockney, J B Priestley and Sir Ken Morrison.

The UV theme has been extended to include photographs and transparencies painted with Starglow UV-revealing paints (Glowtec) which were re-photographed under UV light to produce novel effects that could be used in promotional work.

Lighting Set-up

The gallery had a conveniently curtained-off area at the back, where the pictures could be mounted on the wall and it was relatively dark. There were two 25w blacklight blue fluorescent UV lamps (Pro-lite plus) mounted either side of the pictures and a 100w natural daylight tungsten bulb was directed into a silver reflective brolly, wired into the Futronix P50 switch panel.

It was therefore possible to control the on/ off and display sequences of both the UV and tungsten lamps using remote control from the viewing area. The viewing sequence adopted for the exhibition was as follows:

  • From dark, fade up the tungsten light using the Futronix remote control over 28s to full power.
  • Then switch on the UV lamps.
  • Fade-out the tungsten light from full power to zero, again over 28s.
  • Then switch off the UV lamps.

By doing this sequence it was possible to view the constantly changing appearance of the pictures over the 28s fade-up/ down periods.

For taking pictures I had additionally programmed the P50 to dim to approx. 75% & 40% of full power by using levels 2 & 3 on the remote control.

Why I decided to use the Futronix P50

I had carried out preliminary lighting experiments using a simple automatic countdown dimming lamp holder, used for children's bedroom etc. This showed that the concept was workable, but the shortest fade-out time of 15 minutes was too long.

I was therefore looking for a variable fade up/ down system, which could be used in a gallery. A search of possible options on the internet came up with the Futronix systems, I think, mainly because their website was straightforward, and the P50 had fade rates from 0.5s – 60 minutes, it gave me plenty of options to work out the best rate for my end use.

It was designed for residential use, so it was simple to wire up. My one reservation was that it was intended to be mounted into a wall socket and not necessarily be transportable, but subsequent chats with Futronix Technical satisfied me on that score. It was also realistically priced.

I am delighted to say that it performed well throughout the exhibition!


A photograph of the iconic Accountancy/ Smirnoff advert was "doctored" with transparent phosphorescent paint and illuminated under the same conditions as the collage pictures. I added the Futronix text as a bit of fun!

The work of Artist Keith Edmondson

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