Nature’s hardest-to-reproduce colours recreated in exhibition

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Naturally Brilliant Colour, Kew Gardens, London

THESE beautiful, vibrant images are from a forthcoming exhibition exploring colour at Kew Gardens, London. The show highlights nature’s most brilliant hues, as well as the brightest human recreations of them.

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What we perceive as colour is normally the result of certain wavelengths of light being absorbed by the coloured molecules in pigments while others are reflected to our eyes. But some of the colours we see are created by light reflecting off microscopic colourless structures on animals and plants. These are called structural colours.

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Mimicking this process could help industry to replace pigments that are hard to source ethically or sustainably.

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These images are from Lifescaped, the lab-studio of scientist-artist Andrew Parker. Lifescaped has reproduced structural colours in their most vivid form, using technology called Pure Structural Colour. This uses transparent materials to replicate colour-producing plant and animal structures.

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The first image shows a kaleidoscope of glass coloured with Pure Structural Colour. The second is Developmental Flow, made using watercolour and gouache, and later digitally enhanced.

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The third and forth images show dots of Pure Structural Colour on canvas, and the iridescent feathers of taxidermied hummingbirds. The fifth and sixth show rainbow-like abalone shells, and lily flowers fluorescing under UV light.

Naturally Brilliant Colour opens at Kew Gardens on 17 May.

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