Teddy Lo is a visual artist and lighting designer who specialises in the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). His works have appeared in the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Russell Simmons' Art for Life festival in New York, the Luminale lighting exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, and even the Burning Man festival in the United States. Lo (below right) is also the founder of the Input/Output Gallery in Hong Kong and Ledartist, a specialist LED lighting-design company. He spends his time in New York, Shanghai and his home in Hong Kong.
How does Lo use light? Lo's work has similarities with more traditional art forms such as sculpture. His creations feature technical elements that control the patterns and colours of the lighting. Phaeodaria, perhaps Lo's most well-known work, serves as an example of this 'tech art' style. First displayed by the Museum of Art in 2008, the installation features organic-shaped LED sculptures inspired by marine life. Lo programmed the lights to react to radiation given off by the audience's mobile phones. Wi-fi, 3G signals and simple radio waves cause reactive changes in the lighting pattern.
How long does it take to create an LED artwork? 'In some cases we need to design a unique software system, which can take six months or longer,' Lo says. 'Normally, though, the total time for each piece is four to five months. First, I complete the basic art concept and produce design drawings and plans, which can take a few weeks. Then it takes at least another three weeks to manufacture the electronics and industrial fabrications.'
How did he enter the field? 'When I was younger there were three things I wanted to do: special effects in Hollywood, contemporary art and art directing in advertising. When I was at the Art Centre College of Design in California, I took an art class that ultimately led me into this line of work. I had to look for a medium for my art projects and discovered an LED module from a factory visit in China. I graduated in 2001 and went to work in advertising. In 2003, though, I had my first exhibition at the Di Modica Studio in New York. That was when I really saw the artistic and commercial potential of this field.'
What has Lo been working on recently? For this year's Maker Faire, a two-day festival of invention in San Francisco, Lo teamed up with fellow artist Ryan C. Doyle to create a 19.2-metre-long LED sculpture called Gon KiRin (right). The pair used a dump truck as the chassis for an enormous remote-controlled, fire-breathing, steel-and-LED dragon that is now on tour across the US.
Lo says: 'It is one of those pieces that has surpassed all my expectations. We used advanced industrial and electronic technicalities to create a piece of art that I think is one of the greatest integrations of US and Asian aesthetics to date. I hope it will be a platform that we can keep building on in the years to come.'
What is his next project? He plans to enter the annual Ars Electronica competition - an international art prize that is part of the Austrian festival of the same name. Since 1979 this event has celebrated the crossover between art and technology, with awards given to innovators in the field. Although winning such a competition would raise Lo's profile, he has a grander vision: 'My dream project would be to put a light installation into orbit,' he says. 'Then everyone on the planet could see my work.'
And where can Lo's work be seen? Phaeodaria is on display at the Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin. Lo's work is also displayed at his studios in Kwun Tong and New York. A complete gallery of his projects can be viewed at teddylo.tv.