The Joys of Colour, Technology and Light - Part 1: Story Behind the Artwork

My studio, TechxArtisan, is a creative technology studio in Guangzhou. In January of 2021, as we familiarised ourselves with the New Media Art industry we collaborated with several artists who were using interesting technologies such as machine learning, computer vision and 3D printing in educational institutions in China.

It was still the first year of the pandemic then. Many exhibitions in China were affected and cancelled. Business was challenging but this gave us plenty of time to try out new things and to experiment with technologies like LED control and object detection. However, it wasn’t until I met Dave Bramston that I really appreciated the creative potential of these technologies. I saw a couple of Dave’s social media posts on the system most commonly used in China, WeChat, about his lighting artworks made from waste plastic to promote a zero-waste lifestyle in Guangzhou. 

Dave’s work turning waste into art fascinated me and I wanted to know more. So I got in touch and we talked on WeChat.

Dave Bramston’s artworks.

I knew before the pandemic that Dave was a super active British artist who had already delivered over 100 design workshops and creative lectures in China! His workplace, Bramston Studio, concentrates mainly on generating original thinking and fostering creative inspiration. This was exactly the artist I was looking to collaborate with.

One of several video meetings with Dave Bramston.

Although international travel was impossible during the pandemic, it didn’t stop us from brainstorming ideas for experimental creations. We held a video meeting to introduce each of our teams and started working on artworks applying interactive technologies. We came up with ‘Coloured Towers’, a work that detects the colours of people’s clothes and responds by changing the LED colours. This interactive light installation was an interesting concept for our two studios to collaborate in creating.

The draft of the concept design

Dave’s original idea was to enable light towers to interact with people’s hats. However, I modified the algorithm to detect and extract colours of clothes instead, by taking into account that people generally don’t wear hats these days. Or do they? Still in England? Like people in Downton Abbey do?

After a period of development, my studio built a set of equipment and LED strips and shipped them from China to Bramston Studio in the UK.

LED Controllers have our specially designed, UK-flag-shaped, 3d-printed cover case.

Dave used his magic with fabrics and turned these electric devices into beautiful light artworks.

Pictures of light stands in development.

Dave soon decided to scale up the project and present it in the exhibition he was curating at The Bowes Museum in the summer of 2022. At my studio, we were excited about the new project and the application of many LED strips on four tall pillars, each about 5 metres tall. We could imagine how great the completed work would be when fully lit up.

After a month of fabrication in China, we completed the testing stage and shipped all the equipment to the Museum in March 2022. 

A final test at TECHxARTISAN studio, China, before the shipment to the UK.

In May in the UK, all the equipment was installed successfully. It was a delightful experience and a great collaboration between Dave’s team, the Museum’s team and TECHxARTISAN studio.

I met the teams of Bramston Studio and The Bowes Museum remotely and started working on installations for the exhibition.

This is the Museum team putting LED strips on all the pillars in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery.

Can you find me in this photo?

The exhibition, Journey in Colour, opened on 18 June and will close on 30 October.

My only disappointment is that I could not be there physically for the opening of the exhibition to see the final artwork with my own eyes.  But I do see the smiles of visitors in front of these Coloured Towers in the photos like the above. So, I express my thanks to the photographer who captured these moments at the Museum and shared them with us. I feel honoured to have been invited by Dave Bramston and to be part of this cool and interesting collaborative creation of the artwork for this exhibition at The Bowes Museum in the UK.

Even now, as I write this article, I still haven’t yet met Dave Bramston or the Museum team in person due to the pandemic.  But it won’t stop us from brainstorming creative ideas and working together on projects in both China and in the UK..

If you are also interested into how I was building this project, please read my next article:

The Joys of Colour, Technology and Light – Part 2: Technical Challenges and Experiments

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