July 22, 2017

The Colour Catcher | Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius at The Design Museum

One of the things I’ve become more and more intrigued about as time goes on is the theory behind colour and how we, as humans, interact with it. ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ by Kassia St Clair has long been in my Amazon shopping basket and I’ve even contemplated a colour theory course (much like this one offered by Rebecca Harkness at Future and Found).

As if by magic, until 24 September, the Design Museum is getting in on the in-depth contemplations behind colour and its latest exhibition, Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius, is an exploration of our perceptions and connections to colour as well as an investigation into how colour behaves over time.


Drawing on her fifteen years of research Jongerius has created a variety of pieces and installations that explore the effects that light conditions have on our perceptions of colour and form while also challenging the modern industrialisation of colour.

Split into three different spaces that stimulate alternative lighting conditions – morning, noon and evening – the exhibition draws on inspiration from other colour research, such as the likes of Monet’s painted haystacks, which documented the landscape at different times of the day, visualising how differing lighting had an effect on colour.


‘There is a phenomenon in colorimetric called Metamerism. This was the starting point in my Colour research. It occurs when colours are viewed in different conditions, and describes the effect when two colours appear to match even though they might not actually do so. I think everyone once bought a piece of furniture or clothing in a certain colour, and experienced a shock when unpacking it back home. Most companies see the effect as problematic and try to avoid it, and produce colours that attempt to eliminate it. But I want to make a plea for embracing metamerism. As a designer, I want to make a place for plastics, varnishes and paints to use layered pigments that provide intense colours that are allowed to breathe with changing light.’

~ Hella Jongerius


As a result of her research into Metamerism, Jongerius has incorporated sculptures, textiles, immersive experiences and even videos into each of the three sections. While the morning section explores the differences between lightness and brightness (as well as the hazy feeling of waking up), the noon section features intense colours and strong contrasts with dark shadows, finally finishing with the evening section which showcases black tones and deep moody shadows.

Standing with her concept of using layered pigments, Jongerius has resisted using carbon within any of the black tones within the exhibition. ‘A shadow is never black,’ she explains. 3D colour catchers are situated throughout the exhibition to showcase the ever-changing depiction of colours with light and how each tone interacts with another.


‘These colour catchers are an abstraction of all the daily objects that surround me. They are the ultimate shapes for researching colour, shadows and reflections. They are my canvases.’

EJP-Breathing-Colour-Hella-Jongerius-Design-Museum-Colour-Catchers EJP-Breathing-Colour-Hella-Jongerius-Design-Museum-Evening-Colour-CatchersEJP-Breathing-Colour-Hella-Jongerius-Design-Museum-3d-COlour-Wheel

There are many highlights of the exhibition but for myself, one series stands out. Running along the length of the gallery is a series of woven textiles depicting Jongerius’ colour catchers in a new light. Titled ‘The Woven Movie’, the pieces use a range of fabrics and techniques as well as varying colours to depict a repetitive image of the colour catchers throughout the day.

Each creation is incredibly tactile and can also be viewed as a sequence of still frames in an animated movie. The art of weaving perfectly depicts Jongerius’ reasoning for layered colours, due to the nature of the multilayered material building up to create both texture and pattern.


‘I aim to create unexpected yarns and fibres that will bring new functions and tactile experiences, to offer new perspectives on textiles and build a bridge between traditions and industrial processes.’


Running until 24 September, this is definitely one to add to your summer culture list. While it remains a visual feast of colours and designs, there is a lot of further thinking involved and this is easily digestible from a visitor perspective. Pay a visit and let me know what you think!


28 JUNE 2017 –24 SEPTEMBER 2017
224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 6AG
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington
Adult £9.50
Student/ concession £7.20


Leave a Reply

home sweet

hey there!




Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

%d bloggers like this: