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Colour Transfer

Creativity plays a vital role here at Paddington Central. This summer, you can experience the positive impact of colour and light yourself with British artist Liz West’s radiant site-specific sculpture, Colour Transfer, a dazzling new immersive environment spanning the underside of Paddington Central’s Westway Bridge.

Our Art Curator, Rosie Glenn, introduced Liz West to Paddington Central and was closely involved throughout the commission. Ahead of the unveiling of Colour Transfer on 16th June, Rosie caught up with Liz at her Salford studio to discuss the personal inspiration behind this vibrant and captivating artwork and to find out more about Liz’s childhood, her student influences and her life as an artist.

Colour Transfer by Liz West at Paddington Central, commissioned by British Land; image courtesy Liz West; photograph © Jason Bailey Studio

Liz, great to see you here at your studio. Let’s talk first about Colour Transfer and the close relationship it shares with its location. Paddington Central is really a city oasis, a destination through which people are energised. Do you hope Colour Transfer will provide a connection with the adjacent waterfront and green spaces?

Yes, that’s a fundamental part of the artwork. When we first started talking about this project, the key aspect was to capture the essence of the surroundings and to introduce a sculpture which would inspire and energise those passing by. I knew intuitively that an injection of colour was needed to create an immersive environment, something people could experience as they walked to and from Paddington Central. Also, I recognised that combining the entire kaleidoscopic spectrum with prism forms would create a dynamic optical illusion, forming undulating and rhythmic shapes which would play on people’s visual and physical perceptions as they move through the space. Of course, these patterns and tones have strong links with the fluidity of the surrounding water and fresh greenery. Added to that are reflective mirrored surfaces and beautiful natural light, it’s a very playful and uplifting piece which activates and enlivens the space in a striking and engaging manner.

And, of course, there’s a strong aspect of wellbeing generated by your artwork.

Definitely. Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, I find that being closely involved with both colour and light has a hugely beneficial impact on my health. The art I make is almost instinctive, allowing me to experience different spaces and the changing seasons in a positive way, to look deeper and further into the world around me.

Colour Transfer by Liz West at Paddington Central, commissioned by British Land; image courtesy Liz West; photograph © Jason Bailey Studio

And the artwork title, Colour Transfer, this seems to resonate with the environment?

Yes, I’m interested in how people move through the space, transferring from one area to another if you like. Also of course, it’s a fitting link to nearby Paddington Station! There are other meanings though; throughout this commission I have wanted to convey how one colour transfers to another, something viewers can experience as they traverse the entire span of the artwork. In addition, here, the colour has been applied – or transferred – to the surface of the aluminium framework.

Thanks, it certainly conveys the essence of the piece. You know, sitting here and looking around at your colour charts, drawings and models, I sense a very creative environment, I wonder if your life has always revolved around art?

Yes, without doubt! I grew up in a very artistic household with two artist parents who both taught at art schools, so home was always full of curators, painters and sculptors. In fact, my mother, Jenny West, was Artist-in-Residence at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery when I was born. She recalls the Gallery’s entire curatorial team visiting the maternity ward to discuss plans for her upcoming exhibition. In a way you could say I was born into the art world!

So you felt at home with art and artists from a very early age?

Definitely yes, art is part of my DNA. There were two studios at home – my father created a sculpture workshop outside and my mother was based upstairs in her painting studio, a lovely light, bright and airy space. My earliest memories are of playing with art and craft at a small table with my mother and also of making clay hand casts with my father in the garden. This love of creativity continued throughout school culminating in 2003 with an A-Level visit to see Days Like These at Tate Britain, a show which confirmed my need to be an artist.

Colour Transfer by Liz West at Paddington Central, commissioned by British Land; image courtesy Liz West; photograph © Jason Bailey Studio

It seems Art School really was the natural route, and your ensuing Foundation Year at Leeds College of Art was followed by a Fine Art BA at Glasgow School of Art.

I simply carried on doing what I was good at. Looking back now, my first two years in Glasgow were a period of exploration, ultimately leading to a realisation – you could call it a ‘lightbulb’ moment – in my final year when I began to experiment with light and colour. I’d say my degree show was a pause; I knew I wanted to continue making artwork and managed, after working and saving for three years, to open my north-west-based studio in 2010.

It feels as if you are very well established here in your studio. I wonder, was it difficult to reach this stage in your career, and what does being an artist now entail for you on a day-to-day basis?

Starting out as an artist wasn’t easy but, throughout my career, I have managed to recognise opportunities and to make the most of them. Yes, I am ambitious but also tenacious and focused with a Can-Do attitude. In addition, I’ve learned to think outside the confines of my studio’s four walls and consider how to develop and present my artwork in larger spaces. Nowadays, my schedule is incredibly varied; this week, for example, I’m attending a site visit for a possible commission and a meeting about an upcoming exhibition. In addition, I need to chat with my fabrication team about sculpture materials. Importantly for me on a personal level, I need to find a quiet time to play around with some simple materials – coloured pens, pencils, card, paper and Perspex. In essence, working with colour and light is a vital component of my practice.

Colour Transfer is on permanent display under the Westway viaduct now. To find out more about Liz West visit and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Colour Transfer by Liz West at Paddington Central, commissioned by British Land; image courtesy Liz West; photograph © Jason Bailey Studio

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