The staging of light and colour is the theme of an exhibition held from 8 November 2008 to 3 May 2009 featuring the work of the LED-ColourLab research team, a project which was implemented by Zurich's Academy of Fine Arts in cooperation with the Winterthur museum for industrial arts and crafts.
Model for LED ColourCase. Copyright: LED-ColorLab, 2oo8
The days of the familiar light bulb are numbered. The era which was initiated by Thomas Alva Edison with his groundbreaking invention in 1879 is to be phased out in Switzerland by 2012. It will in future be replaced by the innovative lighting technology offered by the LED (light emitting diode), which will shape the surroundings we live in and influence our perceptions and even our moods.
This will require a fundamental new way of thinking and provide an opportunity full of hope, because in addition to its extensive economic promise, great design potential is also forecast for the LED. With its dynamic interplay of light and colour the LED offers a wide diversity of new possibilities of expression to architecture, interior design, lighting planning and use of colour. In the process the spectrum of applications offered by the LED will range from public buildings via exhibition and retail space to theatre sets, and from the workplace to the private home. Today we already see such lighting displays on facades and urban spaces, and these can be regarded as the early precursors of this development. However, the design potential also lies in the novel flexibility of these newly designed products, which even permits purely temporary installations. This flexibility for example enables light to be used to create three-dimensional images as part of stage sets.
Hand in hand with these revolutions in lighting technology, a move is also taking place on the architectural and design horizon away from the classical theory of colours to new a theory of colour and light.
LED test equipment. Copyright: LED-ColorLab, 2oo8
The Swiss research team LED-ColourLab has done a great deal of pioneering work in the use of colour and LED lighting, and the results of their research can now be viewed by both experts and the general public in the form of colour and light installations shown as part of the 'LED - staging light and colour' exhibition at the Winterthur Gewerbemuseum.
Within the context of the overall theme of "Colour and light belong together", or in the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1984) "Colour only becomes colour in association with light", the research studies and the resulting exhibition focus on the relationship between LED lighting and coloured surfaces in previously under-researched dynamic contexts. What began as small cardboard models in the colour-light laboratory of Zurich's Academy of Fine Arts is strikingly demonstrated in the exhibition by three large-scale, spatial colour-light installations which can be entered. In the process the sensuous diversity of the interrelationships between dynamic LED lighting and coloured surfaces are impressively revealed. If the lighting or the coloured material changes only minimally, the result is new and different colour perceptions. In order to record the nature of such transformations in shades of colour it was important to the research team to be able to evaluate them optically as well as to measure them.
In thematically separate sections of the exhibition the results of the research are presented in a way which is striking, practice-related‚ and enables visitors to touch and experiment for themselves. For the installation Colour-Light-Patterns 255 different colour areas are combined on a large wall surface, which is then exposed to a dynamic LED light composition and whose colour composition constantly changes (so-called subtractive colour mixtures).
The spatial installation LED Colour-Light-Claviatures is composed of a sequence of 15 large-format wall sections in different colours. By means of LED lighting the coloured areas are subjected to changing coloured light. Surprising colour changes take place as a result of this coming together of coloured light and pigments.
Model situation: Colour-Light-Claviatures installation. Copyright: LED-ColorLab, 2oo8
Model situation: Colour-Light-Claviatures installation / Experimental set-up. Copyright: LED-ColorLab, 2oo8
The spatial installation «White to white» shows a series of differently coated white wall areas which are exposed to beams from LED lamps with subtly coloured white light. As a result a wide range of shades of white or even apparent white can be experienced in the space.
Without a doubt these developments in LED lighting technology will trigger a realignment at various planning levels and make necessary the appropriate operational tools and measuring instruments for the design field. The question of whether the development of a kind of NCS colour chart for the colour-light sector may now be conceivable was, in view of the current standard of LED lighting technology, a question to which the LED-ColourLab researchers answered with a cautious 'maybe'.
Experimental set-up for installation; Colour-Light-Patterns. Copyright: LED-ColorLab, 2oo8
LED-ColourLab received support from Switzerland's Commission for Technology and Innovation (KTI), as well as partners from the world of business in the form of Philips AG Lighting Switzerland, IPG Pulvertechnik AG and kt.Color. If this research work and the exhibition represents an important, perhaps groundbreaking step for the establishment of LED lighting technology, this exhibition also marks the completion of a significant project for LED-ColourLab. The research team hopes that the knowledge it has generated can be carried on with the set up of a colour-light centre. What will also be required is financial support from business and interested institutions which are ready to invest in a future-oriented project.