31 March 2020
What’s the origin of colour? How is it created? What’s its emotional impact? 2020 is the year of Van Eyck, and the Design Museum in Ghent is marking it with a fascinating exhibition on the innovative and diverse use of colour. The exhibition starts from the unprecedented abundance of colours created by the Flemish painter and goes on to explore what colour means to contemporary designers.
Van Eyck managed to produce extremely soft hues and a wide range of colours through his use of oil paints, achieving astonishing grades of transparency by superposing different shades. This inspired the exhibition Kleureyck. Van Eyck’s Colours in Design, which sets up an ex post dialogue with the painter from Bruges with present-day designers, rather than artists, asked to share their experiments with shades, materials and plays of light, working with colours analogous to those used by Van Eyck.
Glimmers and transparencies, shading and saturation take on a new life in the projects by the Flemish and international designers, which are split into three parts.
In Pigment Walk eight installations, each dedicated to a different colour, bring together some 100 objects ranging from furnishings to ceramics, fabrics and glass. While we admire Van Eyck’s masterful treatment of light on surfaces and materials, we are driven to wonder what influence colour has on our lives. In this section, the curators have selected works by young talents such as Tinus Vermeersch, OrtaMiklos, Michael Johansson, Muller Van Severen, Anton Alvarez, Nendo, Sigve Knutson, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, OS & OOS, Klaas Rommelaere and Stéphane Mouflette, alongside pieces by established designers like Ettore Sottsass, Wim Goes, Sophie Rowley, Wieki Somers, Barbara Nanning and Unfold, which are part of the museum’s permanent collection.
The Research Projects, on the other hand, are ingenious experiments around the nature of colour itself, with investigations into the wealth of colours hidden in the shadows and crystal ampoules filled with tinctures made from herbs and micro-organisms. In this section, Hella Jongerius worked with an artisan paint manufacturer on Colourful Black, a kaleidoscope of dark tones that reveals just how many shades of black there can be. Nienke Hoogvliet investigated how to obtain alternative fabrics using natural colours from herbs. Lynne Brouwer experimented with the power of colour on the human psyche in a bid to make objectively ugly and upsetting spaces (such as crematoria and police stations) as comfortable and reassuring as possible through judicious use of colour.
The Experience Rooms provide an even more immersive experience – the objects created by the designers for 11 themed rooms react to sounds, lights and to gentle touches from visitors, making for an all-round, multisensory experience. Colourful Kinesthesia by mischer’traxler + Boisbuchet shows how colour can move and move us. The project by Pinaffo Pluvinage + MADD Bordeaux shows how colour can also produce music, using coloured jellies that conduct electricity and emit different sounds according to how you touch them. Jan van Eyck Academy ‘s Food Lab investigates how food can be kept fresh for longer and how its colour and taste change over time. Studio Rens + Light & Lighting Lab KU Leuven demonstrate how different types of light can alter colours. Nick Verstand’s ANIMA is an impressive light and sound projection. Joanna Reuse has come up with Building Game, a room in which children can give free rein to their creativity and colour through a touch-based game. Lastly, the immersive experience is in continual evolution in Judith Seng’s Colours of Becoming room, which is repainted day after day in a different colour.
The exhibition is a journey of discovery into the power of blue, red, yellow & co. in the contemporary world.
Kleureyck. Van Eyck’s Colours in Design
13th March – 6th June 2020
Design Museum Ghent, Belgium