Let them feel the light

Accomplished Australian artist Emma Coulter was commissioned to create the signature public artwork for Yarrila Place. Emma has designed a vibrant steel and glass artwork that incorporates painting, sculpture, and engineering.  The result is a structure that leaps up the curves of the wall and overlooks the atrium, filling it with colour and light.

Emma Coulter Let Them Feel The Light 2023

Artist statement

My work is site-specific, so for me it is always very important to consider the context of the site, the place, and the history. I start with a place of immersion, of familiarising myself with all of these things (site, place and history), and doing my own research in a fairly intuitive way, searching for the idea that feels right to draw from.

As part of the initial artist brief a curatorial rationale, ‘enlighten’, was developed by iAM projects. This rationale references the naming of the building in the Gumbaynggirr language, Yarrila Place. Yarrila means to illuminate/brighten/ light up/illustrate. This idea also references the historical significance of the South Solitary Island lighthouse built on the Coffs Coast in 1878.

Having grown up in south-east Queensland, I had particularly strong memories of wonderful, fun, road trips that I made with my friends to this area and the beautiful beaches and the ocean. These memories were really happy and joyous, and I wanted to capture some of that ‘feeling’ in my proposal.

Being a town [Coffs Harbour] very much centred on its location on the coast and the water, I wanted this idea, of the significance of land and sea, to be central to my work. I drew on the idea of light refracting on the surface of the water, and dispersing into colour, as being central to my concept development. Surrounded by beautiful regional parks, I wanted to also capture that idea through colour.

It is my belief with any public art project, that the work is an intersection of the artist’s practice and the local context. In the development of my idea, I also drew upon a series of coloured perspex sculptures that I had made previously, which explored ideas of coloured light in space, and how they might intersect with their surrounding environment.

I came up with the conceptual idea of ‘let them feel the light’, which also became the title for the work. The idea, ‘let them feel the light’, attempts to describe how I would like people to experience my work, as a special place that attempts to represent the unique place of Coffs Harbour. A work that, through abstraction, is inclusive, open and experiential, as it transitions from day to night.


Emma Coulter – Artists website