I was exploring the use of colour in my art last week. I was thinking about colour association and how a colour will trigger emotions, memories and deeper feelings that often by pass our understanding. I started making notes of the colours of my childhood landscape. it was a landscape that was wide in its vista of dune, sea and sky. I was seeing the yellow hues of summer, the association with dry grasses and thinking of the pink moths of autumn and winter wet hues of grey, and then out of the blue, I started remembering the Lüscher colour test I used to play, this amongst many unusual books was made available to us, as my parents had a large eclectic library at home. My sister in her book the deep sky waits on the outskirts of town writes;
‘we browsed books, took piles of them to bed or to the bath, lay on the lawn and read them and looked at the photos and paintings. I dreamed over the weighty photography books about the great ballerinas, stared at the photos of bizarre tropical diseases, and knew by heart where to find the photo of Picasso teaching his cat to dance.‘
(from; the deep sky waits on the outskirts of town by Annette Lees; published by Reed).
This description sums up that immense delight in delving randomly into knowledge. Particularly interesting were the pathways that open up, as one thing leads to another, and before you know it you end up waking from lost time where with soft focus stalking of knowledge you find oneself immersed in a fairy tale about Cornish Piskies.
I don’t think my parents totally understood what it was like for a ten year old to be doing psychological studies on her self through colour. Quoting from the Lüscher colour book that I still have in my possession: the principle of the Lüscher Colour Test is that accurate psychological information can be gained about a person through his choices and rejections of colours.
The kind of things I would read about my choice of colour might be like this: ‘whoever chooses green in 1st position wishes to impress’. Or: ‘Sexually, red standing by itself in the 1st position suggests a more or less controlled sexual drive, with the possibility of occasional outbreaks of impulsive sexual experience.’ There were of course fascinating insights into how I felt which arose entirely from my choice of colour.
I still have a large collection of books and it is this I go to first before a google search. Sitting in the studio I find a book called color. It’s got all the stuff around colour and perception of colour when looking at shadow or grey colours and then a short chapter on symbolism and history. In browsing this book I read something that throws me. It gives one sentence on Goethe’s theory of colour and in this sentence it completely dismisses Goethe as some kind of idiot who knew nothing about painting. Yet everything that is written in this book on colour has emerged from Goethe’s deep study and exploration on how we see colour and his study on prisms and light.
The writer has not understood Goethe, he has also done something so common, he has forgotten how knowledge grows and develops from people before us who had wondered about something and wanted to know more. Knowledge deepens as we deepen our connection to what it is that we desire to know. Within that we see how we connect into a body of exploration that has occurred before us. It is profound as it is like a relationship between the learner and the body of knowledge. The writer got me straight to Goethe possibly the opposite of what was intended and here amongst all the wonderful insight he brought to our persception of colour is a fabulous quote on knowledge which I will leave you with.
‘the desire for knowledge is first stimulated in us when remarkable phenomena attracts our attention. For it to continue we must find a deep sympathetic connection, which will lead us by degree to a deeper acquaintance with the subject.’ -Goethe.