Alternate Perceptions

Colour has long been a point of investigation for Hella Jongerius (b. 1963), whose designs reject traditional styles in favour of a bespoke and indefinite finish. Adopting an open-ended approach to research allows for the creation of products which value the act of process above a final, resolute form. This ongoing methodology suspends the pieces in a provisional state, retaining traces of construction whilst alluding to an uncertain conclusion. Working at the forefront of conceptual design, Jongerius works with a sensitivity to both emotional and physical conditions; merging contemporary industrial methods with a low-tech, craft-based practice, the Dutch innovator is able to inject individual character into conventional homeware goods. Function is therefore manipulated through a spontaneous use of everyday materials: rubber sinks, rolled leather wheels and stitched ceramics.

Drawing on research from a longstanding and dynamic career, Breathing Colour features an extensive collection of new commissions, united through a consistent exploration of palette, that investigate how light conditions affect our perception of colour and form. Building upon Metamerism, the installations look into the phenomenon of light as an indicator of change and visual fragmentation. While most companies find solidity and authenticity through carefully selected shades, Jongerius embraces such change: “I want to make a plea for plastics, varnishes and paints to use layered pigments that provide intense colours that are allowed to breathe.”

Divided into three separate spaces within The Design Museum, London, the show displays three-dimensional objects alongside both hand-crafted and machine-woven textiles. Morning, for example, imitates the first light of day, with the sun low on the horizon, emulating a gradual dawn. With warm shades receding as the colder morning air rises, the hues transition to translucent, icy blues. The materials deliberately reflect and split the light, manipulating tones and further mimicking the brisk morning air.

With the sun at its highest, Noon replicates the intensity of mid-day exposure. The high light casts deep shadows, providing a stark contrast to the sharp glare and forming a spectrum across grey surfaces. As the sun withdraws, Evening provides the experience of a dim, shadowy night, further distorting the visitor’s perceptions of colour. Furniture casts shadows across the space, materialised through obscure textures. Meanwhile, textiles create dark tones without the use of black materials, furthering the artists’ rejection of standard industrial approach of adding carbon to darken. Such pieces demonstrate the ability to create a selection of rich hues by interspersing a limited palette of threads.

Breathing Colour runs 28 June – 24 September at the Design Museum, London. Find out more:

1. Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius © Roel van Tour.