Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius at The Design Museum

Hella Jongerius’ new exhibition ‘Breathing Colour’ immediately captivates you with its vast array of colours, impressive shapes, and unique way of exhibiting how light and surroundings can create an endless spectrum of colours, showcasing each piece in its most beautiful form. 

The world is full of a rich mix of colours, but we rarely notice just how complex colour can really be. Jongerius’ work shows how the use of light and darkness can give one colour millions of capabilities, sending your eyes into overdrive to capture every possible aspect of this natural, stunning trickery, leaving you feeling challenged and more appreciative of her work.

Jongerius was born in De Meern, a village in the Netherlands, and has designed many pieces of art and objects that you might even find in your own home (she has designed for companies such as IKEA). Jongerius’ style of work could be described as contradictory in her use of opposites to create her work such as combining new technology with handmade objects, and working with traditional methods as well as contemporary. 

Jongerius’ exhibit ‘Breathing Colour’ beautifully explores not only the artistic dimensions of colour but also the scientific aspects by demonstrating and explaining how light effects the colours we see, Jongerius has used beautiful flowing tapestries of a vase to illustrate how the same everyday object can look different depending on the time of day. Each tapestry displays a woven picture of a colour catcher during the day and the tapestries themselves also create different shadows while they move in the wind. The tapestries all together create a ‘Woven Movie’ that can be viewed as individual segments or as a whole sequence, creating something beautiful.

Around the exhibit are various colour catchers that are placed on different coloured platforms under rotating spotlights, thus expanding the spectrum shown by each one and demonstrating how different light makes them look. They take on colours other than their own from the reflections of the other platforms.

T he manipulation of certain lighting and colours can make objects seem more or less attractive,. Certain lights and colour choices can change the way we perceive a certain place or object entirely, a notion which this exhibition opens you up to explore.

As you move throughout the exhibition, you move through the different times of day. The morning section has light pastel colours, made of glass and cloths with the light not only shining on them but through them, creating their own new colours. At noon, you see how deep shadows are created by objects, and how the surroundings change the colours drastically. The brighter shades wrapped around simple & recognisable shapes allow you to connect with the pieces on a deeper level.  

The evening section of the exhibit is in completely different contrast to the rest, with the walls painted black, using only dark rich colours, without adding carbon which Jongerius believes makes the colour messy. The work of light to create shadows in the evening section is stunning, especially as shadows are something that are always there but we rarely ever take notice or think about them, and yet they're something magical. We can see shadows but they have no substance, and yet they have colour. Shadows may appear a moody black or grey, however, they are really a complex mix of the colours surrounding the object creating it.

The use of bright colours against the rich dark backgrounds creates an illusion of endlessness, with the placements and colours reminding you of how these two natural elements; colour and light, which we tend to overlook on a day-to-day basis, are all around us in more shades and variations than we realise are available outside of our pixelated universe, and that our limits of perception should not stop at what we think we see, the same way colours do not limit themselves in their rigid form, but expand into a whole new vision depending on their light and surroundings. 

Jongerius’ exhibition takes you on a journey through the changing world with the use of light pastels and clear colours that gleam in the light creating their own new colours, stretching to brighter shades wrapped around simple & recognisable shapes, allowing you to connect with the object, and then leads us to dark, rich blues and blacks that contrast against the colours, giving them a purer, isolated appearance, as colour diminishes amongst the shadows. 

The mixture and placement of the colours & light can play with your eyes, causing you to wonder what you’re seeing, and if others see the same as you. However, ultimately, everyone sees the same beautiful pieces, and the unique way how you interpret them is part of their beauty. 

You will walk away from this exhibition not only seeing the world in a whole new light but also colours will take on a brighter and more meaningful significance in your field of vision and your urge to explore the great colourful world we live in will be reignited.  

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius is open at The Design Museum until 24th September 2017.  More information may be found here.