Light of Day

2010, St. George's Hospital, London
Neon lights of various lengths
Approx 3m x 3m
Multiple shades of white neon
Fabricator - Neon Circus
Commissioned by St. George’s Healthcare NHS Trust

In 2010 Vong and Claire were approached by Belinda Harward, Arts Director St. George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, to create a site specific light installation for the Special care Neo-natal baby unit at St. Geoges Hospital. They were  given the following brief:

Brief Special Care Baby Unit (S C) – art commission for light work

Development of a stand-alone unit for 14 infants still in need of medical observation and specialist care. Most of these infants are pre-term and some have undergone complex surgery soon after birth. Having experienced the trauma of intensive care and/or high dependency S C in most cases is the last step before home. Here, infants learn to feed and put on weight in preparation to being taken home. There are no visiting restrictions and for the first time parents can care for and get close to their baby.

Care is a balance between quiet and stimulation. There are quiet hours in the afternoon when lights are dimmed and infants are not handled. Stimulation is touch, listening and looking at things. Infants will mostly be in their cots placed on their back or held by a parent. Infants in S C take anything from a few days to a few months before they are well enough to go home.

Ideally, all cots would have daylight and in this Unit only five, possibly six benefit from daylight. The opportunity for art lighting is the ceiling area, the single elevation of windows and the central storage units which may act a ‘hub’ for exchange.

Audiences (ranked for importance)

Parents – “petrified”, but now with their child/children in S C there is “light at the end of the tunnel”. Parents see their child progress and visually from incubator to cot in S C. But the reduction in medical equipment, alarms and staff numbers in S C initially scares parents. After a couple of days they see their baby is OK, relax and get more involved with their baby.

Infants – their eyes move erratically and in the first few days after birth they see objects in outline and in black and white. As they grow they see more colours but sharply contrasting colours next to each other are more visible to them.

Staff – a team of 6-8 nurses whose primary role is to support parents and ensure the family goes home together well and confident.


  1. To signal good news – The Special Care unit is preparation for taking your baby home.
  2. To improve quality of daylight entering the Unit.



The art work needs to contrast with the highly technical dialogue and instrumentation of intensive care.

An important indicator of infant health is skin colour. Pink is good and blue, grey, yellow is bad. Therefore it is important that reflective colour does not impede our ability to register swift changes in infant skin colour.

Constant noise, say from equipment and voices provokes stress and hinders infant recovery and development.

All wall surfaces carry medical equipment and are not suitable for an artistic intervention.

‘Light of Day’

Commissioned work for the Special Care Neo-natal Baby Unit at St. George’s Hospital, London.

As part of the process of developing this work Vong and Claire invited Mr Zahid Mukhtar (consultant specialising in general paediatric and neonatal surgery at St. Georges and head of the unit) to their studio for an exploratory interdisciplinary session. The resulting exchange of ideas was both poignant and thought provoking and led to the following points of departure for the concept:

  • A work for Parents, Infants and staff.
  • Understand SC unit as a transitional space between intensive medical care and post-hospital environment of home – ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ worlds.
  • Post-trauma (for baby and parent) – need for a work that offers both a sense of calmness and of stimulation and a sense of something ‘beyond’, almost on a ‘cosmic’ level, as offering strength and inspiration. No need to use a ‘childish’ vocabulary – meaningless to babies, parents and staff.
  • Balance of ‘quiet and stimulation’ – reflected in the different programmed patterns and rhythms of light – nursing staff have overall control of piece via a control panel.
  • Infants see in black and white – the work will use different hues of the daylight white neon palette.
  • A signal of optimism and inspiration without being obvious or overburdened with any specific ‘message’. The work needs to convey a sense of being beyond specific messages – in the same way as looking at a sky full of stars offers no message  – says everything without saying anything…
  • Offering an improvement to the quality of daylight entering the unit – daylight hues should not interfere with the ‘reading’ of the skin colour of babies (explore this with samples of daylight neon before final choice of palette).
  • Positioning of modules of the piece – inclusive – creating a movement round into the 4 bed cot space, improving light there and drawing it into the rest of the unit.

Vong and Claire produced this work on a not for profit basis as a mark of respect and support for their local NHS hospital