Hella Jongerius breathes colour to life

LONDON – Breathing Colour, an exhibition by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, opens today at the Design Museum. The exhibition by Jongerius, who will be featured in St-W #118, challenges the modern industrialization of colour by exploring our shifting perceptions of colour in interaction with shape, material, shadow, and reflection.

draws on 15 years of colour research by Jongerius, inspired by artists such as Monet, whose studies of light involved painting the same landscape over and over to investigate the changing colour and atmosphere at different times of day.

Metamerism – a phenomenon in colourimetry where, due to differences in spectral power distribution, colours that are perceived to match do not actually match – was the starting point in Jongerius’ research. ‘I think everyone has bought a piece of furniture or clothing in a certain colour, and experienced a shock when unpacking it once back at home,’ says Jongerius. ‘Most companies see the effect as problematic and try to produce colours that avoid it. But I want to make a plea for embracing metamerism.’

‘As a designer, I want to make a plea for plastics, varnishes and paints to use layered pigments that provide intense colours which are allowed to breathe with changing light,’ says the designer.

Accordingly, Breathing Colour is divided into three separate spaces that simulate morning, afternoon, and evening daylight conditions. Each installation includes three-dimensional objects as well as textiles, exploring the impact different lighting has on our perception of colour.

Present throughout the exhibition are a series of complex geometric cardboard objects Jongerius calls Colour Catchers. Created with folding and gluing, each of the faceted surfaces of the three-dimensional objects absorb and reflect subtle differences in colour and light from its surroundings.

The Colour Catchers act as three-dimensional colour charts, revealing gradations of their own base colours in various combinations with other nearby colours. ‘They are my canvases,’ says Jongerius. ‘The Colour Catchers are an abstraction of all the everyday objects that surround us. They are designed as the ultimate shape to research colour, shadows, and reflections.’

A Woven Movie runs along the length of the gallery, capturing the many moods and perspectives of the Colour Catchers.

The Woven Movie incorporates a range of artistic styles

The series of hanging textiles, woven using different fabrics and techniques, can be viewed individually or as a sequence of still frames in an animated movie. Woven Movie is a continuation of the work by German textile designer and printmaker Anni Albers.

The 100 vases in Colour Vases (series 3) are part of Jongerius’ research into minerals and oxides.

Thanks to large-scale manufacturing processes, we now perceive colours as standardized names and numbers on a chart. But colours were once highly unique; combinations of pigment invented by a master artist, each mixture impossible to replicate. Jongerius argues that industrialization has narrowed our experience of colour and its cultural meanings, and Breathing Colour attempts to reposition our relationship with colour more intimately.

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius is on exhibit from 28 June to 24 September 2017.


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