Monday, April 19, 2010

Colour and Associations_1

"Among other things, you will discover that yellow and blue do not make green, that the artist's primary colours, pure red, yellow and blue, do not exist and that virtually everything that has ever been written about colour mixing has been inaccurate." Wilcox, M. Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, Pg9

"... we are all equipped with a very poor colour memory. We quickly forget all but the most general features of a colour as soon as we look away from it..." Wilcox, M. Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, Pg 8

INTRO - Colour has always been important to me... colour mixed with another colour, or set beside a similar or complimentary hue or tone: makes me feel a certain way – it always has – not really primary colours (although having children, I am now enjoying the bright bold red, blue, yellows for what they are – cheerful, alert and bold).

BACKGROUND - On a trip to India in 2006, I was introduced to colour and pattern I’d never seen before – vibrant, seasonal, celebratory, emotive and above all, the most memorable part of my journey. I’m going to discuss my colour and memory/associations as I experienced them on that trip.

STORY - Wilcox writes in his article ‘Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green’, that we forget colour within seconds of turning away from it. Mostly, I agree – my colour memory India has faded... I use photographs to remind me of places, people and mostly colour - in a way, it's more important to me than people.

Delhi - first thing in the morning – green blue fog, against a brilliant pink and orange dawn, walking past a browned clay building – you can almost smell it. Or Jaisalmer at mid day – golden, with brilliant deep red doors, against turquoise and pink hung saris, or a clay coloured step with the most incredibly orange and ochre marigolds – that’s what I remember... the pinks, the golds, reds, emerald greens....

I wanted my photos to capture this, because after all, we forget so quickly. I doctored my photos you see – wanted to ‘capture’ the colours as I remembered them – so I took each photo and manipulated it until I saw what I remembered – even that process had its flaws. We rely very heavily on the digital to remind us of occasions, but how do remember colour and smell? I am very aware that the camera only partly reminds, but can’t treasure how the colour made one feel. Luckily, I just have to close my eyes to remember places, and often the places associate me to the colour palette I remember – grungy dirty brown red steps, ox blood blackened corners, a pink and gold wall, an Indian man squatting down on a dirty street, talking to his friends, wearing the whitest turban and outfit. Pure white. I remember that about India too – the pride of a colour, so clean. I remember orange – undertaker orange. Pure light orange – surely as pure as the white.... the cleanest colours in all of India...

Like India, the colours are often busy, rich in story and pattern and never sleep.
Anyway, back to colour...

THEORY -The objective of the coming excercises - in terms of theory - is to paint swatches of some of the colours I remembered - using my photographs as reference. The final excercise asks to remove texture and mark making, but for me, they are part of the motivations - what made the colours work so well? Why did I feel excited when I saw the pink and gold against a turqouise background? Or a brown clay colour alongside an emerald green? Often times, because it was 'painted by nature' (even the decay) or by hand...

No colour I saw was ever 'black'. There were shades of 'dark' but no pure black, unless it was intricate linework of a painting of elephants, raj's or decorative... the turquoise alongside a brilliant cobalt blue and red patterned tile made me feel awe. Usually because you're not just looking at one tile, or colour, but you're soaking in a massive wall completely tiled - the Taj Mahal in Agra for instance, is decorated from floor to cieling. Your eyes never settle anywhere, and there's a complexity to the shape of the building which just adds to the association.
Visiting lake sides or once majestic palaces, where the water is emerald green dotted with orange and yellow marigolds, doesn't make you want to jump in, it makes you want to stand back and soak in the grandeur of centuries past.
Celebration - Orange and pink, purple and red saris being worn by a woman getting married - her hands heavily decorated with henna (burn orange - deep purple) - you don't look at the colour on it's own, you associate it with the decoration of celebration. She is getting married, and she is decorated for her groom and families.
CONCLUSION - Nostalgia is the wrong word to use as an association with my trip and the colours I found... memory, grandeur, design, pattern, celebration, seasons, heritage and fortune (in a wider sense), are my associations with the colours I was introduced to in India.

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