In July 2016, the Natural History Museum opened a temporary exhibition exploring the evolution and adaptation of colour and vision in the natural world. The Natural History Museum commissioned Liz West to create a light installation that captured the science of colour and light in a visual way. The brief instigated that the installation should feel immersive and exciting, while simultaneously provoking curiosity within the visitor.
'Colour and Vision: Through the eyes of nature' exhibition featured the work of world-leading Natural History Museum scientists and showcased stunning museum specimens alongside interactives and immersive experiences, the exhibition sought to challenge visitors’ understanding of colour and vision. West's commissioned work Our Spectral Vision created a vivid environment that mixed luminous colour and radiant light. It invited visitors to explore their relationship with colour and our understanding of how we see it. By replicating the diversion of white light through large-scale prisms, West allowed pure saturated colour to drench the room. Humans see seven parts of the colour spectrum, some animals see more, some see less. Our Spectral Vision is inspired by Isaac Newton’s seven-fold colour spectrum and blue morpho butterflies, Morpho sp, in the Museum's collection.
Working with exhibition designers and architects Nissen Richards Studio, Liz West recognised materials which she felt lent themselves to the museum exhibits and brief for the commission. West then spend months researching and developing ideas for the artwork before presenting her findings to the Natural History Museum staff; content developers, producers, curators, film-makers and scientists as well as Nissen Richards Studio. West worked closely with Pippa, Director of Nissen Richards studio to realise the concept, design and details of the initial and final structure, by making prototypes, digital renders, fabrication models and plans during a 7 month period prior to the opening. The Natural History Museum and Nissen Richards Studio then employed the help of Andrew Price to construct the work off site and install on site.
Liz West says: “The iridescent patterns and colourings present on the birds, insects and animals in the Natural History Museum collection have inspired the variety and selection of colours in this artwork. The science behind the natural processes of colour researched here at the Museum has provided the backbone for my work.
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CODA: Collaboration of Design + Art
The global online community that celebrates design projects featuring commissioned artworks.
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Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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