SPEAK to any artist or photographer, of any standard or experience, and they will stress the importance of light in the artistic process. What might seem like needless fuss to the untrained eye is usually the difference between a great photograph and an average one, for instance.

We’ve all been there when the self-appointed cameraman of the family spends five minutes making sure the sun is in the right place for the perfect group shot. The title of a major new exhibition in Eastbourne, A Certain Kind Of Light, highlights the meticulousness required to achieve the optimum visual effect.

The display brings together paintings, sculpture, video, photography, drawing and installations. Light is treated in a conceptual way, as its relationship with wider themes is explored. On the one hand the exhibition is a pure visual treat, but on the other the works all have links to broader subjects; metamorphosis, energy, and the relentless passing of time.

The wonder of these artworks is that they portray something universal in a subtle way, without any need for further explanation or elaboration. In some quarters of the gallery natural light is the focus, and how it can be refracted through various filters – without a single mention of Instagram.

L S Lowry’s work Seascape, above, addresses the perpetual issue facing landscape artists. Painted in 1965, the work caused controversy at the time in the art world for its seeming absence of thematic matter. Seascape is impenetrable in its subdued, washedout aesthetic, which reflects the almost impossible challenge of accurately portraying natural light in art.

The work of Peter Sedgley (main image) is markedly different to that of Lowry but still has light at its centre – in this case, artificial light is used to produce dynamic distortions of colour. Katie Paterson’s installation Totality features a large, rotating mirror ball – not strictly a disco ball, although it looks similar – that illuminates the gallery space with microscopic images of almost every solar eclipse captured by mankind through the ages.

Paterson comingles the real with the artificial as she uses a material source to portray a wondrous natural event.

More about the Towner Art Gallery

THE gallery presents major exhibitions of contemporary and classic visual art as well as selections from the Towner Collection, which holds over 4,500 works.

The pride of the collection is its modern British art and, most notably, a significant portfolio of work by Eric Ravilious, the landscape painter renowned for his reproductions of rural scenes in Sussex. The gallery welcomes more than 120,000 visitors each year and in 2014 became an independent charitable Trust chaired by David Dimbleby.

A number of talks and events will run alongside the A Certain Kind Of Light exhibition, with artists, writers and scientists who have devoted careers to the study of light lined up to share their knowledge. Full details will be revealed soon, so keep any eye on townereastbourne.org.uk.

Future exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery

Art And Popular Culture

July 22 to September 27

Exploring visual art’s link with popular culture and how it has beguiled and confused artists over time. Featuring work by Phil Collins, Jeremy Deller, Mario Rossi and Anthea Hamilton it is a nuanced and balanced consideration of the impact of mainstream signifiers on modern art.

Ongoing displays

Towards Night

Until Sunday, January 22

Focusing on everything nocturnal in paintings, prints and drawings of the 19th century European Romantic tradition, highlighting the connection between night and dystopia.

Ravilious and Co: The Pattern of Friendship English Artist Designers

1922 to 1942 May 27 to September 17

A major exhibition coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the artist’s death exploring the relationships and working collaborations between Ravilious and an important group of friends and affiliates, including Paul and John Nash. It will include many of Ravilious’ key works alongside works by his contemporaries, from watercolours to woodcuts, lithographs, book jackets and illustrations and fabric design.

A Certain Kind Of Light: Light In Art Over Six Decades, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, January 21 to May 7, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne, open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, admission free. Call: 01323 434670 or visit townereastbourne.org.uk