Vitrum is an installation that portrays the materiality, history and significance of six hues of blue. It is a research into the materials used for making blue, their role in culture and religion, industry and economy and ultimately colour as a matter of design. The project was realised in partnership with WonderGlass and commissioned by Design Museum Ghent in collaboration with Schloss Hollenegg for Design.
Colour is an immaterial phenomenon. It is generated by our senses through seemingly paradoxical mechanisms of reflection and absorption of light. When we modify material to appear colourful this volatility becomes very tangible.
The journey into colour as a matter of design started with the woollen wall-coverings in the blue room of Schloss Hollenegg that have almost completely turned into a moss-green. Solely some areas masked from daylight bear witness of the colour once intended. The analysis of the transformation process of what once was blue, led to the understanding that the immaterial colour as we perceive it often has a very material origin; except that is for the screens we use today. Physical colour is made from minerals, retrieved from plants, extracted through chemical reactions between organic and inorganic materials or microbial processes. Throughout the ages we have shown a deep desire, done relentless efforts, manifested feverish economic interest in developing colour recipes with ever brighter hues and versatile applications for the design of a more colourful environment.
Vitrum is the latin word for both glass and the woad plant, yielding indigo.
From the Egyptians to the “barbaric” Celts, blue has a history of its own. But if it weren’t for the acceptance of blue by Christian religion, neither the cobalt blue stained glass windows of the Basilica of Saint Denis nor the altarpiece of Van Eyck would exist as we know them today.
As an installation, Vitrum is designed to materialise the colour and significance of some of the most important moments in the history of blue. Similar to a painter’s canvas, glass sheets are suspended to depict each portrait. Vitrum is realised in partnership with WonderGlass using carefully crafted cast glass; vitrifying the colour, to become alive only when exposed to light.
Vitrum was commissioned by the Design Museum Ghent for the exhibition Kleureyck, Van Eyck’s Colours in Design, 2020.
With the collaboration of
Design Museum Ghent
Schloss Hollenegg for Design
Institute of Natural Sciences and Technologies in the Arts, Vienna
Historische Farbstoffsamlung, TU Dresden
Videography by Heleen Declercq