Colourscape at Boston Manor

Image: Colourscape at Boston Manor; photographs Robert Eagle

Guest blog by Robert Eagle

A massive UFO – or is it a clutch of them? – has landed on the lawn in front of Boston Manor. Its controllers are intent on luring all who pass by into its unearthly globular form, where Pied Piper-like musicians and dancers in multicoloured capes entice them from chamber to chamber, bathed in mysterious coloured light.

Children, entranced by the experience, assume they have gone to heaven, while adults wonder whether this is one of those psychedelic experiences they’ve so often heard about. Dogs, for their own protection and sanity, are not allowed.

For this is Colourscape, an entertainment that fully deserves the description ‘weird and wonderful’. It arrived at Boston Manor last week on a 4×4 and trailer as two vast but artfully folded sheets of moulded coloured PVC, which were then staked into the lawn and inflated for a few hours until they took the form of a labyrinth of interconnected cylinders, domes and cones.

The whole structure is kept inflated by three fans that blow in more air in to replace what is lost as visitors and the UFO’s own crew make their exits and entrances.

When you venture inside, it feels as if you have entered some kind of vast multiplex womb with each chamber leading into two or three others. You quickly lose any sense of space; the structure seems to have no boundaries.

But the most wonderful quality of this weird plastic edifice is the light inside. As you wander from chamber to chamber the ambient light changes from red to green to purple to blue. You wonder how they achieve such amazing lighting effects; there are no visible lamps. When you ask one of the helpful UFO crew they tell you: it’s simply daylight.

The vinyl roof and walls are coloured and translucent; as long as there’s daylight outside, the interior just keeps on glowing.

Though it looks as if it has just arrived fresh from outer space, Colourscape – or at least the practical concept on which the structure is based – was actually invented 50 years ago by the artist Peter Jones who had been experimenting in art galleries with coloured panels and devices that affected viewer’s perception.

Peter Jones’ son Gabriel is one of the Colourscape crew on duty at Boston Manor, and he told me his father experienced a eureka moment during one installation when a sheet of coloured plastic fell on him from above, completely covering his body, colouring his vision and giving him the idea that “this could be an interesting way of looking at things”.

It proved to be the beginning of an increasingly ambitious enterprise that has led to the creation of Colourscape structures of up to 100 chambers and collaborations with composers, musicians and dancers.

Live performances of music and dance will be happening in the larger chambers of the UFO all through the week under the direction of composer Simon Desorgher, who also plays a mean flute.

Robert Eagle is an art dealer who lives and works in Chiswick.

Colourscape is at Boston Manor House, Boston Manor Road, TW8 9JX until Sunday 2 June.  Tickets from £3.

Book tickets – Colourscape

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