Artist Floods a Former Cathedral with Rainbows

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Beckett Mufson — May 16 2016

In the Middle Ages, churches could be the most beautiful thing a European peasant would see in his or her entire lifetime. Before photography, television, and the internet, it was arching ceilings and stained glass windows that would entrance the masses. Five hundred years later artist Liz West has transformed the former St. John’s Church in North Lincolnshire, UK into a miraculous new rainbow installation called Our Colour Reflection.

More than 700 colored mirrors with 15 different hues of acryllic spread across the floor of the church, now occupied by 20-21 Visual Arts Centre. The reflecting glass floats around pillars and laps up against the edges of the stone floor and walls, reflecting serenely onto the centuries-old walls. While most of West’s work, including the similarly-named Our Colour Perception, involves broadcasting light to manipulate a space, Our Colour Reflection lets the sunlight do the work. “It is playful, elegant, engaging, and probably my most thoughtful and quiet work,” West tells The Creators Project.

West has been planning Our Colour Reflection for two years, researching the space, finding the perfect methods for coloring and shaping her mirrors, and convincing bureaucrats of the installation’s merits. However, the installation itself was completely improvised. “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,” she says. “The week long install was physically very demanding and this became the biggest and most unexpected challenge for me and my assistant.”

Similarly, the installation itself is somewhat improvisational, reacting to the sun’s path through the sky. “The work changes constantly, depending on what time of day it is,” West explains. “As darkness comes, the gallery spotlights reflect off the colored mirrors and send vivid dots of color 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 they were 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.”

Another visitor observed that, “it felt like the stained glass had fallen out of the windows and onto the floor, shimmering in the sunlight,” West says. The result is poetic and meditative. It’s a rainbow that’s not being beamed directly into the eyes. Inside the cave-like exhibition space, you can dive into the colors, sink to the bottom, and soak in your thoughts and feelings.

Our Colour Reflections is on at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre through June 25. See more of Liz West’s work on her website.


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