Iridescence: From the Collections of the South Australian Museum

Iridescence is shimmering all around us – in bubbles, oil slicks, pearls, peacocks, Christmas beetles and minerals. Drawing on people’s fascination with the phenomenon, Iridescence at the South Australian Museum celebrates its universal appeal with a selection of objects from the Museum’s collection.

Iridescence is shimmering all around us – in bubbles, oil slicks, pearls, peacocks, Christmas beetles and minerals. Drawing on people’s fascination with the phenomenon, Iridescence at the South Australian Museum, curated by Professor Peter Sutton and designed by David Kerr, celebrates its universal appeal with a selection of objects from the Museum’s collection. The works have been chosen to emphasise the appeal of iridescence across cultures, class and age. Director of the Museum, Brian Oldman, says that the “Iridescence exhibition could only come from the South Australian Museum”. “Objects from across our rich natural and cultural history collections bring this compelling concept to life,” he says. “We will be doing more and more stunning exhibitions like this in the future – drawing from our own vast collections, highlighting our world-class research and bringing the best of our Museum out for the community.” While audiences will be struck by the sheer beauty of the exhibition there is more brimming under the surface. “In most cultures it’s not just about beauty,” says Sutton, “it’s about the inseparability of beauty from danger. There is a weaving of joy and menace through the exhibition.” While the exhibition consists of objects with iridescent qualities, it aims to bring out the phenomenon of iridescence itself and the way it exists across cultures and through the natural world. From an education perspective, Sutton says it is about appreciating and re-seeing our environment. “When you are doing the washing up, there is iridescence in the bubbles,” he explains. “Or an oil slick on the road – you get used to it but the first time you notice it as a child it’s pretty impressive.” Sutton hopes that in addition to the aesthetic appeal of the exhibition audiences will also be fascinated by how iridescence is formed. “Iridescence is not a pigment. If you look closely at the thing that is iridescent it’s usually a dull brown or grey; it has no colour. The colour you see is your relationship to the structure in a certain light. It’s an experience that isn’t there when you’re not there.” Iridescence has a certain mesmerising and seductive power and this, along with its ability to constantly change depending on the light and angle, is what gives the phenomenon such a broad appeal. Sutton explains, “With iridescence you can’t predict the next phase. You don’t know the next colour you’ll see. It’s a surprise, it’s about the fun of the new.” Iridescence: From the Collections of the South Australian Museum continues until Sunday, March 15. samuseum.sa.gov.au

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