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Rebecca Baumann

Automated Colour Field 2011

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2011. Originally commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for NEW11.

flip-clocks, paper

H 130 W 360 D 9cm
H 12 W 35 D 0.9cm
1440 min

About the Artwork

Rebecca Baumann’s practice spans a range of media including kinetic sculpture, photography, performance, digital animation and installation. Central to her work is an ongoing fascination with the complex workings of human emotion and the pursuit of happiness through celebration and ritual. Methodically planned and executed, Baumann’s work often utilises colourful festive materials such as confetti, tinsel, smoke, balloons and streamers, which are momentarily, and sometimes violently, brought to life by various mechanisms including fans, ball-throwers, clocks and detonators.

Automated Colour Field (2011) is a kinetic sculpture consisting of a vast wall-mounted grid of 100 flip-clocks, each with their numbered panels replaced by paper cards in a variety of colours. The battery-operated clocks keep their own time, turning the paper cards on the minute and the hour, to create a kaleidoscopic field of colour. As in many of Baumann’s works, the mechanisms used to activate her chosen materials and the incidental noises these mechanisms generate are an important element of the experience she creates. In this work, the analogue clocks activate the paper cards, producing a low background hum and soft pattering sound like raindrops falling on a tin roof.

Baumann is preoccupied with the difference between how people perceive colour and time and how these phenomena are scientifically visualised and measured. Her main focus is the intimate relationship between colour and emotion; and the way specific colours and colour combinations can elicit particular feelings or moods. The artist explains she is interested in the way ‘colour is both universal and subjective’ with the capacity to ‘move people beyond cognitive and conscious thought’.(1) Bringing time into this equation, Baumann links the continually changing arrangements of colour generated by the flip-clocks to the fluctuating spectrum of emotions people experience over any 24hr period.

Informed by psychology, colour theory and art history, Automated Colour Field makes reference through its form and title to a movement in abstract painting known as Colour Field. Links can also be made to German artist Gerhard Richter’s colour chart paintings of the 1960s and 70s, which mimic the charts used by paint manufacturers and incorporate chance distributions of colour. Like Richter, Baumann uses processes of chance and a commercially available colour palette in her work, describing her placement of the coloured cards as being driven by a spontaneous rather than pre-planned impulse, resulting in an arbitrary arrangement of colour.

(1)Artist statement, 2011
(2)Conversation with the artist, 2011


Anna Davis (curator), Statement of significance, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011

Automated Colour Field is a subtle play between materials, colour, and movement. The way I often work with materials is to manipulate and control them to a point – then let them free to ‘do what they do’. The clocks are placed on the wall in an orderly grid, but with their constant change, and randomly selected colour, uncontrollable compositions are created.

Artist statement, February 2012

Rebecca Baumann

– About the artist


Through a formal and conceptual exploration of materials, Baumann’s recent works have critically interrogated ideas of happiness and celebration in contemporary life. Often kinetic and ephemeral in nature, her sculptures and installations seek to affect the audience through their experiential, transient and emotive qualities. Baumann’s current area of interest, the relationship between colour and emotion, is informed by research into psychology, sociology, colour theory and art history.

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