On this blog Liz aims to share her new ideas, research and works as well as her concerns as a full time practicing artist.
In the faded splendour of Blackburn’s Cotton Exchange, amid the light pouring in from the stained glass windows, a 3.5 metre high, octagonal structure tricks the eye in the latest work by the renowned manipulator of colour and light, Liz West.
Appearances are purposely deceiving as the structure, clad in bespoke wallpaper (thanks to a collaboration with wall coverings firm, Graham & Brown), purports to be one colour when it is really the sum of its multi-hued parts, a fact revealed as visitors move towards and inside the piece.
The standard test for superior shade discretion, the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Colour Vision Test, is essential to Graham & Brown, with specialist staff requiring a superior score. After taking the test, and achieving superior colour vision, the artist took new ideas and long-term ambitions inspired by Josef Albers 1963 book, Interaction of Colour, to the drawing board and, after taking colour samples from the Cotton Exchange’s windows, took five pens at a time in her hand and ‘drew’ coloured dots on white paper.
Testing build-ups of different combinations of colours, West eventually hit on the colour she had in mind – a true grey, only determinable from distance. Observing the repeated octagons in the Cotton Exchange’s ceiling design, the half octagons of the window bays and the octagonal shape of the foyer the shape of the final installation was determined by the building itself.
A Subjective Mix by Liz West is a new work commissioned by Deco Publique and Super Slow Way for Art in Manufacturing, part of The National Festival of Making at The Cotton Exchange in Blackburn England on 12 and 13 May 2018. For further details about A Subjective Mix and about the future projects please visit www.liz-west.com.
This past week I have been installing a new site-specific work, Our Colour Reflection, at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre in North Lincolnshire. It has been a massive undertaking both mentally and psychically as it is such an enormous work. I am very pleased with the final work and the opportunity to finally step back and see it as a whole entity.
Our Colour Reflection opens tonight (13th May) and continues until 25 June 2016.
“Our Colour Reflection creates a conversation between the viewer and the setting using more than 700 mirrors made of coloured acrylic. There are 15 colours in all and the mirrors with diameters of 30, 40, 50 and 60cm are set at different heights so that they both reflect the roof space of the old nave, revealing parts of the architecture that would otherwise be invisible, and project colour up into the historic interior. It is playful, elegant and engaging but also thoughtful.
Taking time to research and consider the history of the building and the weight of connotations it holds as a former place of worship, West has thought about stained glass and the importance of light within the space. ‘This has allowed me to make sure the work is grounded within its site but also holds its own voice within the grandeur and information that the space brings to the conversation,’ she says.
There is an element of performance to this work; it puts the audience to the fore, demanding a response, in West’s words ‘physically, emotionally, psychologically or even spiritually.’ Viewers will each have their own perspectives and their own experiences tempered by movement through the space and through time. By going unplugged here, West emphasises that while artificial light can be manipulated it can only, at best, replicate the dynamism, shifting mood and changes in quality embodied in natural light” – Francis Pearce
Castlefield Gallery is excited to be working in partnership with Allied London in commissioning artist Liz West to create a brand new installation for Spinningfields, Manchester.
Through No. 3 will be a six-metre long triangular corridor of light and colour installed on Crown Square in Spinningfields from the 25 November 2015 to Wednesday 6 January 2016.
Hot from her major commission An Additive Mix at National Media Museum, Bradford and a Bursary Award from the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Through No.3 continues West’s exploration of colour and light as primary material for artwork. The walk-through structure will encourage visitors to literally look at their surroundings in a different light.
Working across a variety of mediums, West creates vivid environments with the aim of provoking a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer. She is interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can evoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour. Her intuitive and often playful approach to making sculpture and art installations leads to visually rich works that viewers cannot fail but to be drawn into. Underpinning West’s practice is Josef Albers’ colour theories and his Bauhaus teachings, which she references alongside an informed understanding of Newtonian optics and Goethe’s theory of visual perception.
After graduating The Glasgow School of Art in 2007, West now lives and works in Manchester. She was recently commissioned by the Science Museum London to create a new installation for the National Media Museum, Bradford; she exhibited at The Crypt in Leeds Town Hall for Light Night Leeds (9 Oct 2015), and has recently been announced as one of 10 winners of the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Awards 2015.
The commissioning of Through No.3 has been managed by Castlefield Gallery. “It has been a pleasure to work with Allied London properties, and Chief Executive Michael Ingall throughout the commissioning and development of this new artwork for Spinningfields. Michael understands the importance of artists and creative practitioners to place making, and so it is fantastic to have had Allied London’s commitment to the delivery of this exciting new artwork by artist Liz West for Spinningfields.” Kwong Lee, director, Castlefield Gallery.
– See more at: http://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/news/through-no-3-by-liz-west/#sthash.QYuT9pSy.dpuf
An Additive Mix is by far the most ambitious installation I have ever made, incorporating a purpose build 10m x 5m room with infinity mirrors and 250 6ft fluorescent lamps currently at the National Media Museum, Bradford. The new work has been developed over the past seven months to form part of the exhibition Light Fantastic: Adventures in the Science of Light which celebrates the UNESCO International Year of Light.
The new work, my largest commission to date, turns this occurrence of natural science on its head; reassembling the diffracted colours of the rainbow and projecting them to ‘infinity’ as visitors explore the space.
Within the installation 191 individual colours are combined with a surrounding series of mirrors, reflecting a dynamic and intense illumination throughout the space. An Additive Mix draws from the principle that white light comprises different colours of the spectrum, called additive colours, and immerses visitors in a physical actualization of the phenomenon. Those entering the exhibition space become completely saturated in varied hues that collectively create white light in a seemingly endless expanse.
I used hundreds of LEE Filters in the making of this new work, therefore LEE Filters decided to make a mini-documentary about my current practice and most recent works, including the development of An Additive Mix. Watch the short film here:
For as long as I can remember I have observed and interacted with the world from a super sensory perspective. Once, after observing my behaviour and aesthetic for three years, my art school tutor told me I was sensual and highly aware of my senses. This clear and accurate observation from a third party was crucial in my development as an artist and helped shape the work I create to this day.
“Sensual: Adj. Of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical”
– Oxford Dictionary
Growing up, I was regularly taken to galleries and museums by my artist parents. Artworks I remember seeing as a child were ones in which I was completely immersed. Now, as an artist that is what I hope my work achieves: taking people out of the ordinary into the extraordinary and staying in their memories for a long time.
In daily life my mind races from one thing to the next. My thoughts jump around having been stimulated by the previous thought. It’s hard to keep up with myself sometimes! Thoughts and reactions are heavily influenced by my surroundings, often paying attention equally to every sensory happening. As I walk though a city centre, for example, I hear noises near and distant as distinctly as each other, I can pick up on noises other people might not pay attention to or dismiss; I brush my hands over clothes rails to feel the texture of the fabrics and how they differ from each other; I see colours and tones around me as if they were in a paint palette; I pick up on smells as they waft past – other peoples perfumes, food being cooked, drains, car fumes, shrubs and sometimes piss; I am a super taster and have a limited and unusual diet due to my inbuilt phobia of certain foods. My sensory awareness makes for a bombardment, sometimes not allowing me to concentrate on anything else except my immediate surroundings, occasionally giving me headaches.
My responses are probably extreme and why as an artist I can focus on creating works that ignite reactions from my viewers. I understand what it is like to be enveloped in surroundings, to be inundated with information, to be transported to past memories evoked from a smell or a sound. My research as an artist is living; being present in the world whilst exploring it, allowing myself to ‘feel’ as I journey from one place to another.
I the last few years my focus has been on creating vivid environments that mix luminous colour and radiant light. Working across a variety of mediums, I aim to provoke a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer through my works. I am interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour. My investigations into the relationship between colour and light is often realised through an engagement between materiality and a given site.
Light and colour together have always, always been the mediums that have intrigued, inspired and captivated me the most. It seems natural to investigate these occurrence’s as an artist, spending all my time exploring their limits and capabilities and how they affect space and people.
Within physical and architectural space, I use light as a material that radiates outside of its boundaries and containers. I playfully refract light through using translucent, transparent or reflective materials, directing the flow of artificial light. Our understanding of colour can only be realised through the presence of light. By playing and adjusting colour, I intend to bring out the intensity and composition of my spatial arrangements. These ephemeral interventions forge new spaces and environments, from flooding a physical site with a rich mixture of light to using colour to disrupt the white flatness of paper.
Within the spaces I create, I have witnessed people reacting in a manner of different ways. As individuals, viewers bring their own memories and associations to my work. Different saturate hues ignite different feelings; psychically, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.
As a psychotherapist, I’m drawn to and impressed by art that makes me feel something. Liz West’s ‘Your Colour Perception’ light installation invited us to do just that. A large, uninterrupted open space filled with colour and light; it was as though she’d trapped a rainbow and that by some magical permission, we were able to walk in it – amongst it. Like smell and taste, colour evokes forgotten memories – not necessarily of something specific but a Proustian remembrance of a time past, a sensory recall. Walking amongst the varying shades and intensity of colour I found myself uncomfortable in my childhood – the neon pinks and oranges of the 70’s, nostalgic in the blues and greens that took me back to the Hacienda of the 90’s and the brilliance of the sun-like yellows that made me want to stand and bask for a moment in it’s temporary glow – this is Britain after all. I think it’s incredibly brave to create a lot of something that could be nothing at all. An space empty but for the invitation to fill it with feeling, our own and each other’s. I spent a surprising hour sharing perceptions, feeling and memories with my partner and we both left feeling curiously lifted.”
– Rachel Morris (psychotherapist, writer and broadcaster)
I never intend to prescribe feelings within my work – I wouldn’t like to suggest what is the correct or incorrect reading of the work as there isn’t one. I create something that people can bring their own thoughts and feelings to. Maybe, just maybe, my work might change someone’s perception. What is your colour perception?