Monday, May 30, 2011

Coloured Shadows at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Milan

Last week saw the opening of an exhbition of my art work - Bianco su bianco: oltre Malevich (White on White: Beyond Malevich) - at the Museum of Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci in Milan. This was done in the context of my neuroesthetic programme. It is really art inspired by what we know about the brain, and especially its colour system. It is based on colour shadows, which are produced when white light and light of a given colour illuminate an object. Both Leonardo and Goethe wrote about it.

No one really knows how coloured shadows are produced in the brain though many years ago I described colour specific cells in the colour centre of the brain - area V4 - which also respond to their preferred colour when it is produced by shadows.

Although we experimented with the best distances and angles for the projectors in the studio in London before shipping the white sculptures to the Museum in Milan, setting the sculptures up in the Museum presented lots of challanges. The interesting thing is that once you have a white sculpture against a white wall, the exhibit can be infintely variable. Projectors can be set up at different angles within the confines of the space and the work acquires its dynamism from a critical interaction with the viewer; the coloured shadows change depending upon the position of the viewer. Hence one of the exhibits - entitled New York - could be so arranged that from one point of view it could be considered to be New York at mid-day and from another point of view New York at dusk.

I found the experience of exhibiting in a museum quite thrilling. I will post images on the web once I have them


Laura den Hertog said...

What a pity I will not be able to see this show. I find it fascinating that our brains are filling in these colours in the shadows. My art training tells me to add a touch of green in the shadows of flesh tones, and also to add "light" in the dark areas. Certainly if you are after a level of realism in art, observation shows that we do indeed perceive colour this way.
I haven't studied the effect of different colours on people, but I have observed that people almost universally make the same comments about my landscapes. It is always the word peaceful...and now I am wondering if it's my choice
of palette that causes this reaction. Come to think of it, I recently changed my palette and the reaction has changed as well.
you have given me further insight into my own process and I appreciate the wonderful work you do. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

Seb said...

Thanks for your nice comments. I believe that Leonardo already referred to colored shadows in painting, although I use them in different ways, where the shadows themselves are the primary interest. I will soon post some pictures of the exhibition in Milan.

It is also interesting that colours convey mood but I do not know whether anyone has undertaken a neural study of this.


Semir Zeki