This article first appeared as 'Colour + light' in The Press on 2 May 2014.
They say no two people will ever see the same painting. It's an observation that acquires a literal truth in the works of Rebecca Baumann, which exist in a state of constant, subtle and hypnotic change. Based in Perth, Baumann combines colour with movement in unexpected and compelling ways that highlight their effect on our emotions. She has previously activated materials like confetti, tinsel, balloons and smoke – all in joyful, festive colours – with industrial fans, supermarket conveyor belts, ball-throwers and even firework detonators.
More recently, Baumann has co-opted the regular movement of battery-powered flip-clocks – the kind that first appeared on bedside tables in the late 1960s – to create what she calls 'kinetic paintings', replacing their numerical leaves with laser-cut coloured cards. In a flip-clock, a motor continuously turns two sets of wheels, one slowly to alter the hourly display and the other more quickly to flip over the minutes. Automated Colour Field (Variation 4), which Baumann created especially for Christchurch Art Gallery's current Burster Flipper Wobbler Dripper Spinner Stacker Shaker Maker exhibition, features 44 flip-clocks in a grid formation, creating a shimmering, constantly evolving colour field. The result is an intriguing combination of control and chance. The arrangement of the grid was specified by the artist, who also selected the colours (in hues such as Buttercup, Indian Pink, Southern Seas, Chocolate and Fir Tree) and determined the order of the cards, and therefore which colour pairs would open up together. However, as each clock is activated at the moment its battery is connected rather than being started simultaneously, and the placement of each individual clock within the grid is random, the thousands of compositions that continuously appear and disappear while the work is displayed cannot be predicted.
The movement in Baumann's work is subtle and almost incidental – less the frenetic shuffling of an airport arrivals board and more the soft, near silent, fall of raindrops or leaves in a forest. The effect is strangely hypnotic – and there's an enjoyable irony to be found in the fact that a work powered by the metronomic passing of hours and minutes has the ability to make you completely lose track of time.
Automated Colour Field (Variation 4) is on view at ArtBox, on the corner of Madras and St Asaph streets, until 28 September.