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Rainbows Fill a 500-Year-Old Mansion

Colored glass and mirrors electrify the eccentric architecture of Little Moreton Hall in Liz West's latest installation.

by Beckett Mufson
Oct 4 2016, 5:00pm

Images courtesy the artist

Vibrant reds, blues, and greens spill across the weathered brown floorboards of the Cheshire, UK landmark Little Moreton Hall in color-bending artist Liz West's new installation, Autumn Lights. The National Trust commissioned a set of adjustable window panes and mirrors which paint the 16th century mansion's natural light with all the colors of the rainbow. Autumn Lights transforms the space while keeping its historical charm—and the regulations around working in a Grade I listed building—intact. 

West is known for meticulously designed experiencial installations, often using thousands of dollars' worth of fluorescent lights and colored gels to create the feeling of being inside a rainbow. The National Trust doesn't allow modifications necessary to make somehting like Our Colour Perception, so West took an approach similar to her intervention in a North Lincolnshire cathedral, reflecting and refracting sunlight through colored mirrors, window panes, and prisms to transform the space.

The installation was inspired by Little Moreton Hall's windows, an ancient, living example of hand-blown glass. She tells The Creators Project that her artwork "uses natural light to visually alter visitors’ perceptions of the Hall’s many different spaces. These spaces can differ dramatically in atmosphere depending on the amount of light that’s present.” Riffing on Little Moreton Hall's pre-electricity architecture, she manipulates the sunlight that would have defined the time its original occupants spent there. "By making work that is unplugged, I emphasize 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," West adds.

The colors found in Autumn Lights' 23 acrylic panels are all sampled directly from the gingerbread house-like building's interior. The result is a harmony that doesn't just plop an aesthetic experience on top of an old building, but harmonizes its own beauty within. "People do not expect that such vivid colors were available in the Tudor period and often miss them when looking around the Hall," she says. "My work draws attention to this bright palette by placing large swathes of these 'borrowed' colors around the property." The units are all portable, so West is looking forward to seeing how the technique can be used to transform other locations.

Autumn Lights will be on display at Little Moreton Hall through November 27, 2016. Check out more of Liz West's work on her website and in the links below.

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