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A Glowing Hall of Rainbows Samples Nature's Best Colors

Inspired by color theory and specimens from the Natural History Museum in London, Liz West's 'Our Spectral Vision' installation bursts with light.
Liz West, Our Spectral Vision, 2016 © Jim Stephenson

A rainbow light tunnel is aglow in London as an immersive tribute to Newtonian color theory and the pigments of the natural world. Like Seurat, Kandinsky, and Mondrian before her, light artist Liz West (previously, previously) has an obsession with the spectrum, which she brings to the Natural History Museum in a new installation called Our Spectral Vision. The installation is one part of a larger museum show called Colour and Vision: Through the Eyes of Nature, examining the relationship between sight and color in the natural world.


Liz West, Our Spectral Vision, 2016 © Trustees of NHM, London

West erected seven columns of LED lights encased in mirrors and dichroic glass, each representing one of the seven colors Isaac Newton identified when he filtered white light through a prism. The dichroic glass panes, which we've also seen in the work of light painter Stephen Knapp, reflect light from the surface to achieve a vivid chromatic effect distinct from glass colored by pigment. The mirrors turn each column into a mini-infinity room and reflect the light outward, coloring viewers' shadows. West selected her seven shades after perusing the museum's vast collection of insects, birds, and other animals. In a short video below, West compares the overall effect to the irridesence of the Blue Morpho butterfly's wings.

Liz West, Our Spectral Vision, 2016. © Ian Theasby

"The seven saturated, luminous prism sculptures together create an abundance of pure colored light that glows with bright intensity," West tells The Creators Project. "It illuminates the entrance space to the exhibition, where the installation is located, with a spectrum of radiant color as well as luring visitors in to explore the immersive space and then the exhibition beyond."

Liz West, Our Spectral Vision, 2016 © Jim Stephenson

Liz West, Our Spectral Vision, 2016 © Jim Stephenson

Learn more about Colour and Vision: Through the Eyes of Nature here, and see more of Liz West's work on her website.


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