Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Getting to know hue

Ethereal blue installation offers a unique experience of colour

  • Print

At first, your only impression of Blue, the light-based sculptural installation by David Spriggs currently at Raw Gallery, is of the colour itself. In the otherwise pitch-black exhibition space, an otherworldly blue light hangs silently in the air, formless at first but oddly contained, an indeterminate presence lacking context. Struggling to focus and find your bearings, you're left with your own freewheeling associations -- dusk light in summer, cobalt glass, Mary's cloak, a TV left on at night -- and not much else.

Colour seems like an intrinsic, stable quality of the world around us, when in fact it's in a state of constant flux, vulnerable to minute variations in the spectrum of available light. What's more, it exists entirely in our heads.

Seeing involves as much interpretation as perception. What we call "colour" is ultimately one attempt by the brain to find order in the otherwise-meaningless visual data that our eyes collect. It's a loose interpretation, however, and a highly individual one: because each retina and neural pathway is unique, no two people can experience colour in exactly the same way.

Despite its unpredictability, colour is critically important in many areas of daily life, affecting our alertness, mood, and appetite; it's tied deeply to individual memory; it informs our esthetic judgments, and it's a cornerstone of visual communication. It's no wonder, then, that so many visual artists have sought to capture, control, investigate or simply revel in it.

For the time being, Spriggs only has eyes for blue, and after a moment his vague apparition begins to take definite shape. What had been little more than a diffuse glow coalesces into an dense blue fog -- nebulous, with perceptible depth, form and boundaries, but impossibly still. Gradually, the illusion's simple mechanisms become apparent.

To create the sculpture, Spriggs hung sheets of transparent plastic film, which he's painted with billowing, translucent blue forms, between two triangular metal frames. Illuminated by blue-tinted spotlights, the overlapping layers of film create the impression of a sharply-contained, wedge-shaped cloud that slices across the darkened gallery.

Other artists have sought to make colour and specifically the colour blue a "material" in their work -- even an "artwork" in its own right. Yves Klein began his career as a teenager in postwar France by symbolically "signing" the sky, later patenting his signature "International Klein Blue," a luminous ultramarine. James Turrell cuts skylights in buildings and tunnels in desert craters to single out passages of endless blue space. But where both are concerned with "infinity," hinting at transcendent, even mystical experiences, Spriggs' Blue is in some ways more down-to-earth.

The modesty of his hardware-store materials and the transparency of his stagecraft work to neutralize whatever awe or wonder we might feel upon encountering the luminous, ethereal cloud. The illusion is slow to establish itself, and it crumbles in an instant when the workings are revealed, but that "failure" creates avenues for understanding.

The colour "blue" might be an abstract concept or a fleeting sensation, but Blue is knowable. It unfolds over time and across space: we're aware of our eyes adjusting; we see ourselves seeing; we navigate the work, relate it physically, allowing for an experience of colour we might not be able to have any other way.

 

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 C7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lindor Reynolds speaks candidly about life with terminal cancer

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.
  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

About Steven Leyden Cochrane

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer, and educator from Tampa, Fla.

Poll

Who will you vote for in Wednesday's mayoral race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google