Exhibition: Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius


Our relationship with colour is a detail we often overlook, but Hella Jongerius’ ‘Breathing Colour’ exhibition at London’s Design Museum aims to shed light (quite literally) on our perceptions, and take us back to a more intimate, emotional and pre-digital connection with colours around us.

Renowned for her thoughtful and experimental use of colour, the Dutch conceptual designer Hella Jongerius draws on a lengthy 15 year analysis, presenting an abstract exhibition that blurs the boundaries of art and design. Guiding visitors through a day in vivid colour, Jongerius has divided the exhibition into spaces that reflect ‘Morning’, ‘Noon’ and ‘Evening’. Through these three pivotal phases, Jongerius explores the transient nature of light and its impact on how we see colour.

The ‘Morning’ element of the exhibition distinguishes the differences between lightness and brightness through illuminated translucent beads. Through the lightness of early morning, light passes through the Crystal Stones and Beads allowing colours to change as the sun rises.

At its most intense, daylight at noon produces lively exchanges of saturated colours with stark contrasts. Colour Catchers are a series of beautifully-realised graphic 3D shapes created by Jongerius to develop her analysis of colour, shadows and reflections, and are essentially her form of an artist's canvas. The folded surfaces and layered qualities allow for a new set of colour tones to be examined in the changing light. Jongerius aim here is to “pit the power of colour against the power of form.” To coincide with this, a Woven Movie - a series of hanging large-scale woven textiles - runs along the length of the gallery, documenting the nature of the Colour Catchers at various times of the day.

The exhibition gradually intensifies as it edges towards the darkness of ‘Evening’. Here colour has been consumed by shadows and the complexity of the colour black is fully allowed to breathe. But viewers will notice up-close that no black pigmentation is used here. While the print industry commonly use carbon to produce the darkest colour black, Jongerius has developed a total of 16 alternative shades (all of which are carbon-free) that feature pigments of ultramarine blue, cobalt green and magenta.

Jongerius argues that our increasingly digital world has limited our experience with colour, and she’s right. Pay a visit to Breathing Colour and allow yourself to see colour, and all its complexity, in a whole new light.

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius runs until 24th September at London’s Design Museum. Buy tickets here.