Biovärit : Tutkimuksia kestävästä väristä

Translated title of the contribution: Biocolours : Exploring  Sustainable  Colour

Research output: Artistic and non-textual formExhibitionArt in coproductionpeer-review


What are biocolours and biocolourants, and where do they come from? How could using them contribute to a more sustainable coexistence with the planet that sustains us? 

Our use of natural colourants has a long history but after the invention and global rise of synthetic dyes they have been marginalised. So how can we shift from a largely fossil-based monoculture of mass production towards diversity and a more sustainable colour palette? Change needs a new understanding of bio-based, eco-efficient colourant sources and applications. We also need to question our attitudes towards colours and what we expect of them.

How will biocolourant discoveries impact our lives, our behaviours, and the way we think of colour? In this exhibition you can see how people from a wide range of fields, from scientists and designers to artists and manufacturers, are exploring these questions. They connect ancient knowledge with today’s science and imagine future scenarios, acknowledging that the BIO in biocolourant stands for living beings. It reminds us that all our explorations and uses of biocolourants are collaborations with nature and non-human partners.

Biocolour – Exploring Sustainable Colour showcases some of the many organisms linked to biocolours: those that generate colourants, those who help us produce biocolourants with biotechnology, as well as the ones ensuring that they are safe for the environment and ourselves. You can explore bacteria, algae, fungi, animals and plants, as well as the themes of colour & light, colour & performativity, and a Finnish biocolour palette. They offer new perspectives on the world and research into biocolourants.


Blue, 2021 (video)

The video shows the process of dyeing with a woad fructose vat. Indigo vat dyeing is an ancient and fascinating technique where a water-insoluble colour molecule is rendered soluble making it capable of dissolving in the dyebath and bonding with the fibre of a textile. Chemically speaking vat dyeing is a reduction-oxidation process through which the molecule changes both shape and colour. The reduced bath is not blue but bright yellow/orange, with an oily, bronzy surface. After the textile is removed from the vat, the reduced indigo molecules react with the oxygen in the air and the textile starts immediately to turn from yellow to green to blue. The indigo molecules oxidise back to their water-insoluble, blue form and become ‘trapped’ in the fibre.

Video by Pirita Lauri and Teemu Vilmunen, 2021. Made for Biocolour Research Project (2019-2025) funded by Suomen Akatemia.


Head on the clouds, 2019 (cloud-shaped pillows)

Indigo has been associated with spiritual forces and plays a role in a vast body of mythologies around the world. Head on the clouds is inspired by a Liberian folk tale about how mankind first learned the secret of indigo.

Cotton and viscose clouds, shibori-dyed by hand with Finnish woad (Isatis tinctoria). Made for Crops4Luxury Research Project (2018-2019) funded by Sitra. Photo by Eeva Suorlahti, 2019.

Translated title of the contributionBiocolours : Exploring  Sustainable  Colour
Original languageFinnish
Place of PublicationRovaniemi
PublisherUniversity of Lapland
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2021
MoE publication typeF2 Partial implementation of a work of art or performance
EventBiocolour - Exploring Sustainable Colour - Arktikum building, Rovaniemi, Finland
Duration: 14 Oct 20215 Dec 2021

Field of art

  • Design


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