We're used to seeing churches bathed in colored light, but in a new art installation at St. John's Church in Scunthorpe, England, it's not coming from where you might expect. Instead of stained glass windows, artist Liz West has covered the floors in hundreds of mirrors that reflect a spectrum across the walls, pillars, and ceiling of the 19th century church, illuminating otherwise unnoticed details of the neo-Gothic architecture.
Considering that the building is a former place of worship, West hopes viewers reactions to the installation, called Our Colour Reflection, range from spiritual to emotional, even physical. "Our understanding of color can only be realised through the presence of light," West says of the project, which involved two years of research and planning. "Viewers will each have their own perspectives and experiences drawn from the time of their visit and how they move through the space."
"I am trying to emphasize that while artificial light can be manipulated," West adds, "it can only, at best, replicate the dynamism, shifting mood, and changes in quality embodied in natural light." Commenting on the constant evolution of the work throughout the day, West has observed a variety of responses: One viewer described the work as stained glass that had fallen from the windows. Another said she felt like she was waiting for a rainbow to emerge.
This heightened sensory awareness can tap into our psychological relationship to color. "The installation puts the audience at the fore," West explains. "There is an element of performance to the response."
Our Colour Reflection is on view at 20–21 Visual Arts Centre through June 25. For information on how to visit, see 2021visualartscentre.co.uk.