Beau Lotto

Beau Lotto is a neuro scientist who comducts small social experiments involving colour in contrast, colour correction, colour constancy and augmented reality. You could say his work explores how we see the world and what happens within the eye and the brain when we see, and how we understand and interprete reality. Lotto thinks that colour vision is complex and in no way fragile. We do not just see the colours of objects as they are but as they are useful to us. The eye corrects and fills in colour where it isn’t so that the world makes sense. In fact the eyes peripheral vision does not see colour, only the point of focus and surrounding areas see the colour and fill the grey spaces with the learnt colour. This is unnoticeable as the brain works so quickly to understand the reality it is seeing.

Link to lottos ted talk and website below

Ted talk         Website

Exhibition Proposal

Throughout my artists practice I have become increasingly interested in the ideas put forward by David Bachelor, and the role that colour plays within western culture and society. In the west we tend to shy away from colour, dressing ourselves in black white and grey suits to go to work in our clinical white with beige offices. One may argue that this is to match the grey weather here in England, but this does not change that as a nation we have become Chromophobic. Colour is seen as gaudy, kitsch and infantile. Colour has been relegated to the lower class, where pound shops with their cheap plastic colourful goods are places for people who cannot afford to consume, can consume. Colour is not seen as establishment. Even looking around at the studios I occupy, despite the building being a place where art is created the walls are still a monochrome or a grey concrete, purged of colour. As a University it has to represent the path into the professional world, an educational establishment to be taken seriously. I feel the monochrome in the west represents this establishment. What I aim to achieve is to bring colour into the refined. In to the establishment and away from the kitsch. With other inspiration from Dan Flavin and James Turrell, I also believe in using ready-made colours and light to create instillations that allow colour to spill out of their containers. Ready-made colours are an interesting material to work with. The progression of modern technologies allows for countless colours to be manufactured in many different mediums. Not only is there and endless array of coloured paints but there are many laminates, wallpapers, plastics, perspex, ceramics and fabrics. The act of mixing artists colours traditionally in contemporary art has become less and less. Artists are not restricted by the colours available to them as the qualities of each colour that is made are far beyond qualities you can acquire through paint mixing alone. Ready-made paints have different finishes, satin gloss and matt. Others are metallic or felted also. Plastic colours have fluorescent and reflective qualities, along with metallic finishes that can give a whole different experience of colour than colour in a traditional sense. After all we are in the twenty first century it would be odd not to use twenty first century materials. As mentioned before I posses an interest in how these colours are contained. The works of Flavin and Turrell allow for colour to spill out of the rectangle of the light box and effect the surroundings. The majority of the time when colour is used even in the most abstract way like in the works of Richter and Rothko, colour is always contained within a boundary. I aim to explore the parameters colour can fill and position colour higher up on the hierarchy of western refinement.

I intend to make an instillation type artwork, with the above ideas in mind. I feel the best way to go about this is to create an interactive instillation piece using ready made colours, light and shadow. Research in to visual phenomena and the complex relationship the eye has with light and colour has allowed me to understand and explore ideas surrounding colour constancy and colours in contrast. These ideas are not as simple as one may seem. The research supporting these ideas consider established sophisticated thoughts surrounding the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, physics and art theory. The main point I have taken from this research is that the brain corrects the balance between colours in different lights and that the colour of objects are not constant. For example when walking from inside to brilliant sun out side, for a moment the eye is blinded by the intense light in contrast to the dark interior. Our eye changes and adapts to make sense of the world of colour that is around us. I feel that these ideas involving colour are worthy to be considered sophisticated and refined.

Main points I want to achieve within my work;

  • An element of interaction between the piece/pieces and the viewer. Be it a direct interaction by looking through different coloured filters or changing the piece itself by changing the lighting or orientation of the piece.
  • Focus on colour correction and how the eye changes and adapts to seeing colours in different lights.
  • Create coloured work that is sophisticated. Aiming to draw colour away from its associations with the kitsch, infantile, feminine the foreign and the hallucinogenic.


Ready Made Colours

After visiting the up cycling centre Re-Create in Cardiff, I had my hands on many ready made coloured materials to start experimenting with. Card, plastics and gels are the materials I picked up. As a preliminary idea I started by just putting up large sheets of the coloured transparent gels. The colours were more vibrant than what they initially looked like on the roll as they were placed in front of a white background and illuminated by the studio lights. After hanging a large strip of yellow, magenta and blue each slightly overlapping each other I then started to place the coloured cards behind and on top of each of the gels. Some of the coloured cards were matt in finish but others were also metallic which gave a reflective quality behind the gels. Playing around with different combinations and the different effects each gel made on each of the coloured cards created some interesting results. The yellow gel being the less opaque or strong colour of the three did not completely over power any colour that was placed behind, however it did make the most dramatic difference in colour. When placing a metallic red sheet behind the gel the most luminous orange came about. However for the blue gel what ever you put behind it, it would just make it a slightly darker blue of the gel, with not much variation of colour when layering.

Dissertation PDP

The whole process of writing and researching for my dissertation has come with its trials and tribulations. Throughout, the experience has presented challenges that I have had to adapt to and overcome. The largest challenge of all was settling into the writing itself, as I had not written anything of this length before. When I have written essays previously the longest had been 3000, the length of but one of my chapters in the dissertation submitted on the 2nd of February 2016, and that was back when doing a-levels 3 years ago. So you could say I was a bit out of practice but after a while I realised that quick short bursts of writing in between reading over previous sections allowed me to keep a fresh head and on track to answer the relevant question at hand.

As for choosing a subject matter this at first seemed rather obvious to me at the start. At the time I was participating in a field project about art and the conscious mind. The ideas put forward by philosophers, neuroscientists and artists combined excited me and left we wanting to find out more. With already a wealth of knowledge given to me and a new keen interest to develop my own research leading from this I thought this would be the best option for me. However I suddenly found that without the weekly guidance of a tutor talking and helping me through these massively complex ideas on consciousness, I found myself misunderstanding many theories and losing confidence within myself and the subject. However the reading and research that I had done did not go to waste. I then tried to establish who I am as an artist and what I myself am trying to achieve within my work. My work had links to the phenomena of visual perception, illusion and definitely colour. Although the more complex ideas were lost on me I could still apply what I had read and understood to these three ideas within my own professional development. Out of this my Dissertation title came about.

If given the chance to do the Dissertation again I would definitely have given myself more time. I feel I have let myself down within this aspect as I found myself staying up till the early hours of the morning in the last week before the hand in day. Despite planning not to be in such a situation I still managed to avoid, put off and procrastinate leaving it to as late as possible rather than spread the whole writing process out over the given time. However once I started writing I found that the ideas I had researched and read came quite naturally. I would also give more consideration to my planning before starting to write. I tend to start to plan my essays get to halfway then become over eager ad start writing before I have fully concluded my points and arguments which lead to later frustrations.

This dissertation has not only helped me in my own professional practice but has helped me solidify who I am as an artist and what I aim to achieve within my work. This dissertation you could say is all the academic understanding behind what I have, am and will achieve. Colour, the views people have on colour and the way we interact with it is what I am mainly interested when I create artworks myself. The research has lead me to try new things and explore other avenues such as using coloured light as well as coloured pigment to submerge the viewer in a chrophillic world.

This dissertation has been both stressful but rewarding. The fact that deadlines are a thing and that in my day to day practice I do not do much writing it was hard to slot into essay writing mode. However the research I have done has massively helped the understanding of my own work and given me new direction.

Despite the dissertation being over and handed in I feel like it would be good practice to still add, change, swap and edit information within it as I research and establish my thoughts and ideas further. Although it is finished in the sense that it is handed in to be marked I still feel like there is a whole wealth of other ideas and thought that could contribute to answering the title question.

Over the course of the research the main book of focus and he most rewarding to me and my artists practice was Chromophobia by David Batchelor. This made many points that were interesting and provided a lot of resource to explore. Batchelor references many artists, art theorists, scientists and philosophers all relevant to colour theory, colour perception and consciousness. This from the start has been my bible and will be for as long as I’m making art.

I am very thankful for those who read through my dissertation for me and helped me with understanding theories and ideas put forward in books that I did not understand at first. Especially my mum who is busy enough teaching 400 children GCSE English every day, who found the time to read through my dissertation not only one but many a time. Even at 3.30 in the morning on the 2nd of February 12 hours before hand in deadline.

What I have taken from this process is to start early and to keep interested by setting myself new tasks along the way as well as mini deadlines. Keeping notes together in a word document then printing them out to have next to you when writing is also another tip I would give myself. I have also come to realise that even though a task may seem quite daunting if I set my mind to it and work hard enough (although it be at the last minute) I can achieve the harder tasks presented to me.