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?