Glowing review: Liz West’s Spectral Vision at the Natural History Museum

immersive light work
Artist Liz West has created an immersive light work called Our Spectral Vision, as part of the Natural History Museum's landmark exhibition 'Colour and Vision'. Pictured: installation view
(Image credit: Hannah Devereux)

Liz West has gone back to the basics of vision with her new light work at the Natural History Museum that explores our fundamental relationship with colour. Her dazzling installation has joined 350 historical specimens for the Museum's landmark exhibition, 'Colour and Vision'.

The British artist, who recently caught our eye with a stunning reflective work in a decomissioned church, intends Our Spectral Vision to be 'an immersive whack of bright colour' that sets the stage for the rest of the eye-popping show, where phosphorescent butterflies and bold-winged hummingbirds are preserved in stunning hues.

It was these examples of naturally occuring, otherwordly colours that inspired West's work, and she was allowed unique access into the Museum's archives during her research process. 'The iridescent patterns and colourings present on the birds, insects and animals in the Natural History Museum collection have inspired the variety and selection of colours in this artwork,' she explains. 'The science behind the natural processes of colour researched here at the Museum has provided the backbone for my work.'

As well as working closely with the Museum, West delved into the science history books, as she has been doing the last ten years. Much of her oeuvre is preoccupied with systems of vision, and she treats each new work as an experiment in light, inspired by the way Isaac Newton experimented with disassembling and reassembling white light into the visible colour spectrum.

Made from dichroic glass – a material that changes tone when it's moved – the work comprises seven, psychedelic vertical prisms that visitors are invited to interact with, watching the colours dance inside. With nights already lengthening over London, this exhibition is sure to brighten up autumn.

The installation is 'an immersive whack of bright colour'


(Image credit: Hannah Devereux)

The installation is 'an immersive whack of bright colour' that sets the stage for the rest of the eye-popping show, where phosphorescent butterflies and bold-winged hummingbirds are preserved in stunning hues. Pictured: installation view

installation view


(Image credit: Hannah Devereux)

It was these examples of naturally occuring, otherwordly colours that inspired West's work, and she was allowed unique access into the Museum's archives during her research process. Pictured: installation view

The iridescent patterns and colourings present on the birds


(Image credit: Hannah Devereux)

'The iridescent patterns and colourings present on the birds, insects and animals in the Natural History Museum collection have inspired the variety and selection of colours in this artwork,' she explains. Pictured: installation view

Made from dichroic glass


(Image credit: Hannah Devereux)

Made from dichroic glass – a material that changes tone when it's moved – the work comprises seven, psychedelic vertical prisms that visitors are invited to interact with. Pictured: installation view

INFORMATION

’Colour and Vision’ continues until 6 November 2016. For more information, visit the Natural History Museum website (opens in new tab)

Photography: © Hannah Devereux

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.