Reliefsalen på Willumsens Museum med MArgrethe Odgaards værker

Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours

Margrethe Odgaard  –  Willumsen’s Museum

12 June – 27 September 2020


Prizewinning colour expert Margrethe Odgaard invites the public into the poetic and atmospheric world of colours in a new exhibition at Willumsens Museum

Willumsens Museum has a long-standing tradition of inviting living artists to engage in dialogue with J.F. Willumsen’s art and thus bringing the collection into play and making it relevant for a present-day public. From 12 June until 27 September 2020 we are doing so again, when the prizewinning textile designer and colour expert Margrethe Odgaard, who works in the interface between art and design, takes over Willumsens Museum with both new and existing works. Her work series challenge our understanding of the properties of the colours and explore new sides of Willumsen’s unique use of colour.

Colours are the food of the soul and the language of the senses

Willumsen is well known as a master of colour and often uses the colours in his artworks to evoke certain emotions and moods in the viewer. In the same way colours play an absolutely central role in Margrethe Odgaard’s universe. Unlike many other designers and architects, who prioritize form over colour, she is con­vinced that colour comes before form in our perception of an object. It is the colour that has the greatest influence on how we read the product, as the colours affect our senses and our mood, and stimulate our emotions.

As she says:

”Colours are the reflection of light in the material. They are the emotional element of a structure. By working consciously with the effect of colour one can affect humanity’s experience of itself in the surroundings in a sensually nourishing way.”

The title of the exhibition, “Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours” is partly taken from the French painter Gustave Moreau and sounds a fundamental note in Odgaard’s own methodological approach to the work with colours. For in her view colours must first be thought, dreamt and imagined if they are at all to be used to create an effect. The exhibition is structured around the statement in the title, which thus becomes descriptive of the cyclical process of the work with colours.

Farveprøver fra Margrethe Odgaard og J.F. Willumsen
Willumsens værk "Himmelgåden" og en del af Margrethe Odgaards værker fra udstillingen på Willumsens Museum

In pursuit of colours

In Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours, the colours are allowed to play the absolutely leading role.

But colours are elusive and mutable in relation to light, material and the eyes that see. They exist both as the result of refractions of the light, the migrations of pigments in the material and subjective sensations. The slightest change in the sur­roundings can alter the appearance of the colour and thus its effect on the viewer. So Odgaard’s working process is meticulous and systematic. She works thoroughly and long with the colours and has several times developed her own colour registers in the pursuit of the right colour scheme. She says:

“The special thing about working with colours is that there are so many possi­bilities. I like to say that there are just as many colour nuances as there are waves in the sea. Colours are in constant motion and keep changing with the light, just as waves are constantly changing. For that reason I feel more like a hunter of colours than a designer of colours. At one moment the magic of the colour is right in front of me; at the next it has gone. But I am learning that the more precise I am in my search and the better I formulate what I am looking for, the greater are the chances that I will find it.”

Sense and sensibility – an artistic investigation

In the exhibition Odgaard invites the public to experience for itself and reflect on the communicative power of colour. The works in the exhibition will unfold around several artistic investigations which respectively take emotional (transitory and subjective) and logical (tangible and objective) approaches to the understanding of the complexity of the colours and their ties to our cultural anchoring and language.

The work series Emotional Structures creates a physically sensual encounter with its viewer by connecting colour with our verbal language. Colours are a language in their own right, but consciously or unconsciously we also associate the colours with particular moods that are often expressed with words. In the series of nine cubic works Odgaard has created nine harmonies and moods simply with the aid of various colour combinations that have been carefully selected on the basis of the actions of the colours. Odgaard applies an extremely systematic method in more or less all her colour schemes, in which a pack of cards with verbs in the present participle such as gathering, nourishing, singing, activating etc. are used deliberately to choose the colours. Prior to each work Odgaard has thus defined the mood-creating effect she wants to induce in her viewer.

Margrethe Odgaards værk side om side med Willumsens værk
Farveprøve fra Odgaards Montana-serie ved siden af et værk fra J.F. Willumsens hånd.

In the work series Cubic Prism Primaries Odgaard use the language of mathe­matics to describe the effect of the colours and thus attempts to concretize the ability of the colour to reach out into the space to make its effect palpable. The series takes its point of departure in the idea of the cubic prism as a four-dimen­sional analogy to a cube. The cube consists as we know of the three dimensions length (x), width (y) and height (z). In a sense the refraction of the light in the surface with its radiance creates the fourth dimension, which can be understood as the spatial effect of the colour. With the work Is Colour the Fourth Dimension? the stringent mathematical language is counterpointed by the materials of the works –felt, organza, wool and embroidery, which along with the colour and the viewing subject create the fourth dimension.

That we need not only bodily contact, but also sensory and aesthetic stimulation for mental and human wellbeing have only become clearer in the recent period. “Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours” recognizes the importance of colour for our mental and physical wellbeing by exploring its interplay with light, material and its connection with our emotional life. At the same time our attitudes to colours and the colourful also say something about personal experiences, cultural and geographical roots and his­to­rical judgements based on taste, which will be brought into play in the exhibition.

The exhibition will take us a step closer to the nature of colour, offer new angles of approach to our view of colours, and give us insight into how both Odgaard and Willumsen work with materiality and effect. “Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours” will surround us with the poetic language of the colours and offer much-needed sensory nourishment.

The realization of “Think, Dream, Imagine, Colours” has been made possible against the background of the generous support of the foundations Bodil Pedersen Fonden, L.F. Foghts Fond, Spar Nord Fonden, the Danish Arts Foundation and the Toyota Foundation, as well the sponsors Montana Furniture, Kvadrat and Ege Carpets.

Bodil Pedersen Fonden

Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond

Spar Nord Fonden
Statens Kunstfond