Our Colour Reflection by Liz West

Our Colour Reflection is an ambitious new work by British artist Liz West. The installation transforms the interior of the former St John’s Church building now housing 20-21 Visual Arts Centre gallery by using hundreds of mirrors to reflect the gallery lighting into the roof space, projecting colour up into the historic interior. Viewers will see themselves in the mirrored surfaces as they explore the space – creating a dialogue between viewer, artwork and architecture.

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, engaging and probably my most thoughtful and quiet work.

I took a lot of time to research and consider the history of the building and the weight of connotations it holds as a former place of worship. I 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.

– Liz West

This installation has taken months (maybe even years) of logistical planning, including; several site visits over a period of two years, researching the best place to source coloured mirrors in the widest palette, organising shipments of materials from overseas, instructions fabricators to cut the materials to exacting measurements and figuring out the best possible way to respond site-specifically to the grand architecture of the former church building whilst trying to convince people that what I had in my head was going to work.

The week I installed the work there was an intense burst of activity as I brought all the component materials into the actual space and started to arrange the installation bit by bit in a very methodical but organic way; I had no plan of where each mirror was going to be laid, just the idea of the work as a whole in my minds-eye. The week long install was physically very demanding and this became the biggest and most unexpected challenge for me and my assistant.

– Liz West

There is an element of performance to this work; it puts the audience to the fore, demanding a response, 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, I am trying to emphasis 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.

Since the opening of the exhibition I have overhead visitors comment on the work. One lady observed that to her it felt like the stained glass had fallen out of the windows and onto the floor, shimmering in the sunlight.

The work changes constantly, depending on what time of day it it. As darkness comes, the gallery spotlights reflect off the coloured mirrors and send vivid dots of colour up into the interior of the former church building, illuminating the neo-gothic architecture. In the daytime, one visitor stood waiting for a beam of sunlight to come through the windows and hit the mirrors. They remarked that it felt like we were all was waiting for a rainbow to emerge, and when it did it was brief before disappearing just as quickly but leaving a luminous and radiant imprint in their mind.

– Liz West

About Liz West

Liz West creates vivid environments that mix luminous colour and radiant light. Working across a variety of mediums, West aims to provoke a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer through her works. She is interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour.

West’s investigation into the relationship between colour and light is often realised through an engagement between materiality and a given site.
Within physical and architectural space, West uses light as a material that radiates outside of its boundaries and containers. She playfully refracts light through using translucent, transparent or reflective materials, directing the flow of artificial light.

Liz West (b.1985) graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2007, with a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art: Sculpture and Environmental Art. Since then she has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. West has been recently been shortlisted for several awards including Aesthetica Art Prize (2016), Light Art Project of the Year at the Lighting Design Awards (2016) and Best Light Art Installation at the Darc Awards (2015). She has recently won a Bursary Award from the Royal British Society of Sculptors (2015). Recent exhibitions and commissions include: Colour and Vision, Natural History Museum (2016), Autumn Lights, National Trust Little Moreton Hall (2016), Solstice Ritual, Penarth Pier Pavilion (2016), Our Colour Reflection, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre (2016), Zenith Blue + Primary Red, Arcadecardiff (2015), The Light Room, Willis Museum & Sainsbury Gallery (2015), Through No.3, Manchester (2015), Light Fantastic, National Media Museum (2015), Manchester Science Festival, University of Salford (2015), Your Colour Perception, Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces Federation House (2015), Assaulting the Asphalt, Airspace Gallery (2014), FOUR, Cornerhouse (2013) and Celeste Art Prize, New York (2011).