Bowes Museum – changing colour, adding light


first post

Bowes Museum is bursting with fantastical objects saturated in a huge variety of colours, textures and materials. The container for these objects, the museum itself, dresses in a rather sombre and limited colour palette dominated largely by the locally sourced materials of stone and timber from which it was constructed. This is not a bad thing. Having practiced as a graphic designer, I am familiar with the proven method of creating simple vessels to package lively and visually energetic products. This method often elevates the beauty of the the thing contained within in much the same way the white space of a gallery wall can help direct our focus towards the importance of an item onto which it is hung.

I suppose it might be considered a bit rude of me to call the elegant architecture of Bowes Museum sombre or simple – its grandiose French style architecture is a true marvel of scale, form and detail, agreed. Allow me to very simply consider the overwhelming appearance of neutral colours (browns, greys and beige) combined with a limited and sometimes underwhelming mix of lighting (often with good reason given the need to limit UV damage to some of the works) and therefore address the building as a canvas. As part of my residency, I would very much like to test and play with this canvas by taking inspiration from the forms and colours of the museum’s collection and introduce temporary interventions using lighting, coloured films and handcrafted neons which will be documented as an experimental process. I very much hope to be able to create some explicit visual links between the museum and its contents which might inform future presentations.

A museum has refined order, hierarchy and rules which elevates it as a destination for contemplation and the worship of things far removed from the lives of people that surround and approach it. I see introductions of colour and light as a means of inviting a little disruption and disorder to the traditional space more reflective of the jumbled outside world to reveal yet more character and potential from within.

My process very often begins with digital compositions and tests – this allows me to visualise colours and lighting effects quickly to satisfy impulsive ideas whilst avoiding the time consuming nature of live testing and rigging. The images shown are my first steps in considering how colour might affect the visitors’ welcome to the museum and align with the eclectic nature of the objects they are about to consider.