University for the Creative Arts, James Hockey Gallery Mondrian Exhibition
Light & Colour.
Mondrian, at his core, was a man who sought to present the world in a manner we were less than familiar with. He broke down the world as he saw it into what appears to be little more than just simple, geometric shapes, but in reality were artistic reflections of whole forests, seas with ecosystems apart from our own, and fields of golden crops ready to be harvested. All of this through segmented colour.
When it comes to spatially translating his work, it is a struggle to do something other than simply decoding and translating his work, returning the 2D to the third dimension, undoing the artistic process for the sake of explanation.
Year of design:
University for the Creative Arts
Composition A, (Above)-
The donor painting from which the exhibition was derived. In other words, the exhibition would give users the chance to physically experience one of Mondrian’s most famous works, as translated into the spatial medium.
So instead, or perhaps additionally, the new spatial proposal must, in keeping with Mondrian’s own artistic standards, seek to achieve something equally new, bold, and explorative; achieving not necessarily a state of truth, but creating an environment in which the core theme of breaking down an environment into its core attributes; emotion, tone, depth, etc are highlighted and represented.
As such, the proposal for this design was one that fully embraced atmosphere and scale, making the user feel the environments from which the painting was derived, all without setting foot in the real setting.
The site was the James Hockey Gallery at the UCA Farnham campus, a long two storey exhibition space generally intended for wall art and sculpture work. Sometimes the room would host more structural, architectural work, but never anything close to the scale of what would be proposed under the Mondrian design scheme.
The user always approaches from the main entrance of the University, itself accessed from the main road. This makes it a great site for public events, of which the Galley regularly entertains.
For the sake of the Mondrian design scheme, the Galley had been slightly altered on the plans, with the removal of the balcony and side door.
Hand Drawn Plan and Section, Right-
The final technical drawings were to be completed by hand, the first time we had produced any drawings of the type before, physically or otherwise.
The user moves through the space, embraced at all times by colour or shadow, perhaps the shadow being reflective of the select physicalities Mondrian chose to omit.
Colour, either as light or as texture, surrounds the user; they negotiate through it, explore through it. It leads to a much more dramatic experience than Mondrian could have likely wished for from his own artwork.
The initial area, the Colour Area, as seen in Images A, B, and C, is an exploration of the geometric plains present in the image, laid out to explore the concept of previously compressed depth hidden within the painting.
From the left, as the user negotiates the plains (now dwarfing the user) they are hit with strong coloured light, it too referring back to elements taken from the painting. Afterwards, the space opens up into a new area, the Transitional Area (Image D), a space with by far the largest volume. From the entrance of this area the user can see into the next area beyond, the Experience Area, where Mondrian’s face can be seen through a window.
The Transitional Space contains a large suspended cube hanging from the ceiling, itself a unique piece of Mondrian-inspired art that is often shadowed in darkness depending on the time of day and direction of light, otherwise the cube is bathed in colour emitting from the nearby windows. There is also a bench, itself a reference taken from the donor painting, reflective of the thick black line that runs through the lower section of the image, now transformed into a place to sit.
Moving up the ramp, we move finally into the Experience Area, where Mondrian’s portrait (E) forms a mural on the opposite wall from the entrance, and the donor image lays sunken into the floor. The raised platform, like the majority of dimensions in the exhibition, is in golden ratio to another element, meaning every line and proportion is considered.
The Transitional Area, Above-
The room, bathed in darkness, reflects Mondrianic representations onto the floor, forcing the user to not just negotiate physical obstacles, but intangible ones as well. In the distance, Mondrian’s portrait beckons.