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For those in the design industry, colour is the foundation on which we all work. It is ever-present and helps define the things we create, critique and promote. You could argue, quite easily, that colour is in our DNA.
For that reason, we were thrilled when we got the chance to visit the new exhibition currently taking place at The Design Museum – Breathing Colour, by Hella Jongerius. As Jongerius herself describes it, Breathing Colour makes us question how we define colour as an element and acts as an exploration on colour theory – ‘to pit the power of colour against the power of form’.
The installation-based show draws on over fifteen years of research on colour and light behaviour, examining how colours change between morning, noon and night and the effect texture and shape has on tone and shade.
The exhibition itself is divided into separate spaces that simulate the different times of the day, each of which explores the impact the light quality has on our perception – using a range of sculpture and textile design to illustrate the point. What the differing spaces prove is just how complex colour can be, and how blind we can sometimes be to that intricacy.
Jongerius uses the space to argue that our post-industrial approach to colour – whereby we no longer harbour a holistic or organic approach to colour and have instead become used to picking out codes or names from a chart or book – has further diluted our sense of colour, and narrowed our experience of it.
The exhibition packs an extraordinary amount in – referencing early colour theorists from the classical Greek era right through to Newton’s explorations on colour in the seventeenth century. But balanced with the technical and the scientific approaches to the subject, Jongerius also looks at subjective and artistic approaches to colour and how these have shaped our modern understanding of what colour is and how it behaves – referencing everything from Goethe’s ‘Theory of Colours’ to Le Corbusier’s colour palette of 1931.
If you, like us, have a borderline neurotic obsession with all things colour, we strongly suggest you check out this perception-altering new exhibition.