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The Pigment Timeline Project



Welcome to The Pigment Timeline Project

By Ruth Siddall, on 22 July 2016

Who are we?

The Pigment Timeline Project is a collaborative, cross disciplinary research project being undertaken by:

Jo VolleyArtist and Senior Lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art. Co-director of the Materials Research Project.

Dr Ruth SiddallGeologist and conservation scientist, formerly of UCL Earth Sciences and currently part of the Office of the Vice Provost Education & Student Experience. Ruth is co-author of The Pigment Compendium.

Gary Woodley Artist and Lecture at the Slade School of Fine Art. Co-director of the Materials Research Project.

Malina BuschArtist and former Honorary Research Associate at Slade School of Fine Art, currently Lecturer at Morley College.

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What are we doing?

The aim of the Pigment Timeline Project is to investigate and establish connections between all UCL departments that involve pigment and colour in any aspect of their research.

The outcome of this project is to create a Pigment Timeline that will function as a virtual and ultimately physical passage through UCL. By identifying these areas and examining existing maps of UCL and plans of each department, a 3D computer model of single images and a simple animation will be created to reveal their association through colour, space and time. This will be a unique visual display of quantitative information and an innovative manifestation of the multidisciplinary and imaginative thinking that is part of UCL tradition.

In early 2015, we sent out an opinio survey to all UCL staff, asking them to tell us about how colour and pigments featured in their research. We are delighted to say that we received responses from staff in over 35 departments, research institutes and museums at UCL. Now, in the final year of this research project, everything is coming together.

Gary Woodley is translating the collated information into the maps and plans of the university, using FormZ software. In this way an interpreted model of UCL departments and buildings in 3D virtual space, will allow viewers to explore the colours and pigments used. You will be able to fly through this imagined UCL world of colour research.

The computer generated renderings, in their turn, will inform the production of several small detailed maquettes of the university pigment timeline as prototypes for further enquiry, display and funding applications. We will also produce a series of ink jet prints of 5 of the renderings and a number of silk screen prints.

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This proposal builds upon a well established interdepartmental research project into pigments between Jo Volley, Onya McCausland and Ruth Siddall who have worked together to develop a substantial pigment library. This includes generous donations from the Winsor & Newton Archives. Much of this collection is currently housed in 7 cases, 3 publicly hung in the north cloisters with 4 smaller cases in the Slade School. The cases are in the North Cloisters, adjacent to the Housman Room and along with Jo Volley’s painting, “A Pigment Timeline” have become a talking point within the UCL community.


The pigment library itself has created much interest within and outside the Slade, attracting expertise and cross-disciplinary research at UCL, e.g. Earth Sciences, Chemistry, and History of Art. As a resource it offers students access to information that supports their understanding of materials and possibilities for practical application.

It is our hope that this project will establish new knowledge that relates to the ethos of the cross disciplinary environment of UCL. It will reveal pathways through its architecture and have possible implications for future structural changes.

It is a celebration of creative thinking and a thing of beauty.


What Next?

Alizarin Crimson, Mayan Blue, jellyfish bioluminescence, chlorphyll, indigo, Tyrian Purple, ultramarine, ochre, squid ink, Dragon’s Blood and err … the colour of faeces are just some of the intriguing and fascinating colours and pigments featuring in research at UCL. We will be identifying key colours to represent each department and, if you contributed to our survey, we will be contacting you in the near future to ask if you would be willing to be interviewed to talk in more detail about your research. If you’re willing you could feature on this blog!

Thank you for helping us make this happen!


The Pigment Timeline Project is funded by the UCL Centre of Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects.

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