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Sijia Huang

Thesis: A Phenomenological Approach to the Perception of Coloured Light in Art, 1963 to 2004

Supervisors: Prof Paul Smith



BA in Theory and History of Art (Peking University)
MA in History of Art (University of York)



In 1963, Dan Flavin’s works of fluorescent tubes introduced a new kind of colour, colour as light in art, which was diffuse and atmospheric, physically engaging our bodies and heightening embodied perception, as opposed to colour as paint on a solid surface. Flavin’s contemporary, James Turrell began with projected coloured light on walls and later worked on homogeneous coloured light filling empty rooms, creating immersive coloured light environments. Turrell and his follower, Olafur Eliasson mixed subjective afterimage colour induced by homogeneous coloured light with coloured light at the present scene, and the mixture was neither a subjective sensation nor an objective property, which questioned the dichotomy of subject and object in colour perception, with Eliasson’s work of art, Your colour memory (2004) as the culmination. Pointing out the influence of phenomenology on the artists, this project aims to use phenomenology, including David Katz’s, James J. Gibson’s and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theories to interpret the perception of coloured light in their art, including the difference between light and paint, the phenomenon of coloured light, and the relationship between subject and object in the perception of coloured light.

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