In the course of developing the Fluorescence series of works, I have been reflecting on the changing nature of relationships, particularly examining how the relationship with my father has evolved over the years, and is now impacted by age and deteriorating cognitive, emotional and intellectual function. This work is intensely personal, bringing together my longstanding interest in the role of arts engagement in trauma recovery and healthy development, with the reality of the impact of aging and intergenerational relationships.
In his younger years, my father was an outrageously crazy and passionate personality. We fought a great deal, and I did not speak with him for seven years after migrating to Australia. Dementia and poor health have robbed him of his spirit: I no longer see the passion in him, his memory and sight have been taken away. We no longer fight, but equally I don’t know how to engage with him now. I am now learning how to create comfort for him through my artwork. Fluorescence is dancing with my father of now and of old – embracing both versions of him, and building a new kind of connection with him in spite of living far apart.
The science behind fluorescence fascinates me: how vibrant colour evokes an immediate response in people, changes in brain function and perception, the use of light such as argon in medical therapies, and applications for brain discovery such as in the differentiation of minutely detailed brain structures in brain imaging. I have been experimenting over time with different sensory expe- riences in my work including sound, aromatherapy and touch, so my interest in the application of light is a natural continuation of how arts engagement might trigger different effects in terms of cognitive and emotional function.
The role of fluorescence in brain imaging creates a poignant link between my longstanding interest in neurosciences and arts engagement, as I grieve over how brain deterioration in my own father has resulted in a profound loss of cognitive and physical function. Now I am seeking new ways of using fluorescence to try to bring him comfort, and perhaps even spark joy in the dimly lit places where he seems to have retreated.
As I work through a multitude of unprocessed emotions around the loss of the relationship with the father I knew, and my changing role in trying to create comfort for him, Fluorescence has become a metaphorical search for the heart and brain. I am hoping that Fluorescence will help me to illuminate what I have lost, to begin the journey of articulating those things I cannot yet see.
- Hiromi Tango, 2015