This block of working will altar how I perceive my art making practice, staring with a completely new medium: writing. Despite this change of making, I am continuing with a subject always present and dominating in my work, colour. My interpretation of colour had always been completely physical. I had to interject my own expression into the pigment, through mark making, film making or sculpture. In each piece, I never seemed to go beyond any sort of aesthetic surface , never deeper than its outward appearance.
This short set of tasks will help me push beyond this, working through a purely non-aesthetic approach, taking any cosmetic value out. I am going to document my perception of colour, its importance in my life (and practice) and more importantly how that changes and shifts over the next 6 weeks. I am to collate all this documentation in a publication for exhibition, a vast change in my usual approach to exhibition making. I have no specific intention set out, purely just a timekeeping plan and the end result of a publication. My approach with simply be: feel and write. Any format. Any time.
Colour is a pillar that upholds the vitality of life.
Creation is being made with such primal elements,
Colour cannot be touched, yet it is fluid,
Colour is attractive, we are touched by it.
Colour is diverse and divergent,
Colour is dependable yet temperamental,
Colour is valuable and altogether fascinating.
A Different Kind of Order: Sequencing Chroma
I have constructed a cube-like structure that resembles a clear plinth with a hexahedron sat directly on top. Inside the top cube are sheets of coloured acetate plastic with printed text, assembled in a chromatic order. The layout of the acetate sheets encourages viewer to wander around transparent coloured planes and discover chromatic combinations orchestrated as a reflection of the ups and downs of navigating a personal progress of reflection and desolation. When viewing the acetate from either front facing sides, the observer witnesses a void of colour, the complete spectrum that is layered to overwhelm and create nothingness. Looking from a side viewpoint, the full spectrum can be seen. Capturing all the light from around the exhibition room, creates a kaleidoscope around the space. The publication element consists of several poems, manifestos and snippets of text that I have constructed, that outline how colour influences reality. All of these individual pieces of writing are printed onto clear acetate sheets, which are positioned amongst the spectrum, concurrently and paradoxically breaking and harmonising the order.
The purpose of my publication is a personal response to coping with a mental health changes that I have dealt with over the past several months. Colour has been a stable coping mechanism during tough times, surrounding myself with particular colour can significantly alter my outlook. I wanted to understand why this occurred and how I can articulate this phenomenon that I experience every day. I chose to work with a completely new media type: writing as artmaking, as a direct way of working through issues and learning how to build an understanding of my view of colour and chroma. The writings that I built over several weeks of experience and drafting, I printed on clear acetate. These clear sheets would simultaneously fracture and compose the spectrum of colour by providing literal stop breaks in between the coloured acetate, but the shift in hue is still visible. Viewing the texts from the side would make them readable, viewing them from a front renders them completely indiscernible against the dark void of layered colour. On the verge of visibility.
SCULPTURE The main bulk of research involved looking into writing as artmaking, and more specifically how writing can be used as a mode of publication and display within an exhibition environment. Joseph Kosuth, Ross Sinclair and David Osbaldston all heavily influenced my application of text to my established colour-based practice. Once I had collected a series of pieces of text that I considered developed, I tested several methods of display from projection to printed text. I had explored methods of layering in other modules but I usually considered all the grouped levels together as an end point, not the act of demonstrating the overlap. As a result, I began playing with the basic colour spectrum, its aesthetic appeal when staggered and overlapped, reflecting on my previous colour field studies. I was to make sure that I included the RGB colour model. The model is defined by electronic systems such as computer and television screens, video cameras, and scanners, as well as digital photography, and the theory originates from basic human perceptions of colour. This element of colour perception, provides a stable infrastructure to accompany my personal colour perceptions printed onto the clear acetate. The act of moving between red and blue, two conflicting colours creates a balanced line of control, caught between a conflict of red and blue. From the side, all colours between red and blue are visible, a complete order is systemised. From the front, all the colours are combined to create a vacuous and uncontrollable void space. This hostile collision of instability and balance is carefully confined and controlled inside a box. I chose to work with clear Perspex as it provides a strong physical presence, as well as being ethereal in a space. It takes nothing away from the primary focus of colour, it holds the visual content of the box in a spotlight, directly in the eyeline of the audience.
OVERALL, I am very happy with the final look of the box, with the spectrum of acetate inside. The piece fits very smoothly into the exhibition space, and provides an interesting walk around piece. The craftsmanship of the box looks well built and professional. With hindsight, the biggest alteration i’d input is to change the thickness of the coloured acetate. I significantly struggled to place the acetate exactly how I wanted, with a small gap to stagger the spectrum (linking back to my prev acetate tests). I used a much thinner form of acetate compared to the clear sheets, simply to provide more of a diversity in colours. I was able to hole punch and use supporting rings to support the clear acetate, however I wasn’t able to do this on the coloured sheets as they were too thin. Additionally, I had a fair bit of trouble actually getting the coloured acetate onto the rods, even having several pieces ripping completely. Using more robust and thicker acetate would have allowed me to freely move the coloured acetate around far easier.
Formerly in the heart of ‘East’ Germany, the Neues Leben of the show’s title refers to the main East German Publishing House, active until 1989, when the state collapsed. On my visits to Leipzig I had seen many fading murals from DDR(East Germany) time on the ends of buildings extoling the virtues of Soviet Life. For example“Those who go with the Soviet union will be the winners in History” on the post office as well as more mundane celebrations of youth groups or straight DDR advertising. These murals are very old fashioned but also quite beautiful, and are rapidly dissapearing under the massive construction in the city. Now the city is like any other major European conurbation, saturated with ‘capitalist’ advertising of every imaginable kind and in every place. I wanted to make a mural for this project, using this completely anachronistic medium. The modern ‘murals’ of capitalism are computer generated and are printed on a fine mesh which is then stretched over the building in use. However, I wanted my mural to hark back to the pedagogic certainty of the previous era, painted directly on to the surface of the wall. The entreaties of the communist era have been replaced by the mantra of late capitalism. I wanted to propose a new idea, a new space which the casual viewer could consider, but in this old media that people were strangely sentimental about . In translation, the text reads:
REAL LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT
- – BURN YOUR PASSPORT
- – ABOLISH GEOGRAPHY
- – EMBRACE STATELESSNESS
- – RENOUNCE CITIZENSHIP
- – EXPLODE BORDERS
- – ANNIHILATE NATIONS
- – IGNORE CONTINENTS
- – DISSOLVE CITIES
- – ABANDON REPUBLICS
- – SECEDE
An open letter to whomsoever it may concern regarding: Scotland
– A brief and fractured introduction to the history of the1983 – 2083
Thinking about the things that people forgot about because they weren’t written down in history books.
The year is 2083 Anno Domini and Transmission Gallery is one hundred years old today. The place is The Peoples’ Republic of Scotia, a small, nothern European nation with agreeably changeable weather. More than twenty years have passed since Scotlandachieved its long cherished ambition, Independence from England and the Crown. However, this occurred at some cost to the Scottish people…
The Path to Freedom?
At the Stirling Bridge Referendum of 2061, a handsome majority of the Scottish people decided that they wished to secede from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. There were five million or so inhabitants in this poor, damp, country, for so long under the sword of one conquering invader or another. And this populace eventually decided, once and for all, to leave the Union in order to implement a novel plan to completely re-invent the Nation in a manner never before heard of anywhere in the world. The new official name they chose for the re-invented Scotland, from those suggested, was: Scotia – The Living History of a Small Nation. At first glance this may sound like a strange name for a small country, newly independent after 500 years of struggle, but to explain this unprecedented move: the Scots had voted en masse to turn the whole country, and everyone in it, into the world’s first national scale historical theme park. And it was to be of truly epic proportions.
In 2062, almost overnight, a big fence was built along the border with England. This was not to keep the poor Scottish people in, as you might have thought, but to keep everyone else out, because now you were going to have to pay to get in – and it wasn’t going to be cheap.
Most people north of Hadrian’s Wall were initially very enthusiastic about this new development, as Scotland in the middle twenty-first Century was suffering a horrific depression, the likes of which had not been seen since the middle ages of the previous millennium. Diseases which had lain dormant for centuries had returned with a vengeance and were killing off poor people in tens of thousands. Those who couldn’t afford the simple drugs which prevented these grotesque diseases became truly outcast, living in pathetic ragged groups like the leper colonies of biblical times. Thus they were not represented on any voting rolls and therefore did not take part in the ‘democratic’ Stirling Bridge Referendum of 2061.
Officially they did not even exist. By the 2040’s they had become such a problem that large walls were built round the major cities to keep them out and the people who lived inside them tried to forget about those poor wretches who were outside.
When the idea for the theme park was first mooted in the mid 2050’s it fired up the Scottish people’s imagination, galvanising them into an intense debate and direct action not witnessed for many decades. The publicity generated by these debates slowly encouraged many ex-patriots to return home. There were at least twenty million people around the world who considered themselves Scottish by ancestry, but had never actually been ‘home’; this turned out to be quite fortuitous as some of these folk were very rich and brought back their fortunes with them to invest in the park. It was the first good idea anyone in Scotland had thought of for quite a while so it was no wonder it caught on so quickly. It also helped them forget about all the horror that went on outside the city walls.
At this point in the 2050’s, before the park was built, the Parliamentary Monarchy of England had many problems of its own. Its coffers were much depleted after protracted wars with France and Ireland.¡ It simply could not afford to worry about Scotland anymore, particularly since the oil had run out. England’s international reputation had sunk to an all time low and it was the popularly held belief that Westminster was, in fact, quite happy to finally get rid of its troublesome and costly Northern appendage.
Most poor parts of the world were really wasted with wars and famines while diseases and bad planning had made millions of people unhappy. Everywhere had been discovered, nowhere was remote or savage anymore. Scotland wasn’t actually too bad in comparison with the war torn ‘outside world’. Although there certainly were plenty of poor and diseased and unhappy people (mainly those living outside the city walls), there had never really been any kind of modern, technological warfare to physically mar the natural beauty of the place. When proposals for the park became public, it transpired that the outsiders (as these outcast people were known) were to be rounded up and put in hostel camps to be re-habilitated out of harm’s way, up in the northern parts of the country, because now it suited the country’s leaders to help them as plenty of workers would be needed for the park. There were big areas in the North of Scotland where most of the people had been thrown out in what was called The Highland Clearances which began in the nineteenth Century. They were replaced with sheep during the blockades of the Napoleonic wars because these animals were actually more profitable than people. The outsiders were to re-populate these remote areas for the benefit of the tourists, in what became known as: The Highland Clearances in Reverse.
The basic idea for Scotia – The Living History of a Small Nation, when it opened in 2062, was very simple. Each area of the country would adopt the look and lifestyle of a certain epoch in Scottish history. Everyone who lived in these areas would adopt the mores and manners of their designated period. Our best actors would play the great figures in our history, exept they wouldn’t so much play them as be them, since they never got the chance to be off set or out of costume. This should be stressed. The whole country was subsumed into the park, you couldn’t escape it. Anyone else who happened to live in Scotland at the time got the chance to stay on, if they wanted. This was to reflect for the tourists, the tolerant atmosphere created by the mixture of people who originally came from elsewhere to settle in this small country. However, you couldn’t really have people coming and going all the time so it was decided that employment for the lower ranks in the park would be a bit like the volunteer Armies of the twentieth Century, where you signed on the dotted line and agreed to stay for something like 3 years at a time.
All Scotland’s most spectacular battles and events were re-enacted daily in the hills and glens of the Highlands; tourists would flock to the most barren and remote places searching for the theme park’s most authentic experiences. Thus a visitor from China or Perucould easily get a vivid impression of the whole history of our small nation in only a week or so, not to mention seeing the wonderful scenery. All the original flora and fauna were restored – complex deciduous forests filled with wolf, boar and all the other interesting animals that used to live in the place, but had eventually died out because the Scots didn’t take care of them properly.
The Scottish people appeared to be quite happy in their new occupation as Real Life extras in this simulated version of history. Scotland became very succesful and prosperous and everyone agreed that re-inventing itself as a theme park had been a really great idea. Everything was free for Scottish people, although the tourists paid frankly outrageous prices just to breathe the same air as the Scots. From the outside it might have seemed like a bit of an odd situation: the Scottish people were basically providing a service for these tourists while achieving just about the same standard of living as them. But the Scots were tied to this way of life in the theme park, they could never go home to somewhere real or do a normal job – it was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even leisure pursuits were open and available for the global tourist to gawk at. However, it was a comfortable life, and few people complained, especially the ones who had previously been forced to live outside of society for the want of few pounds worth of cheap drugs.
The Main Cities of the Central Belt, Edinburgh and Glasgow
The City of Edinburgh elected to represent the pre-industrial Enlightment period of the city’s history, while Glasgow adopted the post-industrial or ‘Cultural period’. This era in the history of Glasgow originally occurred during a ten year period at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first Centuries, when Glasgow was briefly very popular with global tourism. New museums of art and culture were built at a extraordinary rate and on the surface everything seemed to be going very well. These new repositories of culture championed a popular kind of art which everyone was supposed to be able to access.
There was a major problem though. The educational establishments which taught people from 5 years old upwards had, at this time in the late twentieth Century, stopped telling people anything about art and culture because it couldn’t get you a job in an office when you left school at 17. So, it came to the point where nobody felt they really knew anything about art and culture anymore, which was a great pity as Scotland had once been a very bright country. This made the public suspicious of the people who still made art and culture – and who could blame them? This self proclaimed ‘renaissance’ was advertised as providing art for the people but the problem was that the people never asked for it.
The flaw in this ‘renaissance’ was the approach the city fathers took to make culture more accessible to the public. They made all the culture so simplified and banal that it would appeal to everyone, even those who knew nothing about any form of cultural activity beforehand. Productions of plays which dealt with complex and difficult issues were discouraged, in favour of Busby Berkley style musical extravaganzas – everyone loved these. Visual art was reduced to greeting card designs, though painted in oils, naturally. Glaswegian literature, which was once incisive, politicised and independent, was now produced by the city itself, in defence of its own strategies. This New Glasgow Culture (as it became known) was very easy on the eye and on the ear, and provided a cosy hour or two of distraction out of the rain, and everyone – even those who stood against the imposition of this cultural equivalent of flock wallpaper – agreed that all these places of culture had lovely coffee bars.
…The initial appeal and excitement of this era quickly-dwindled when the people began to understand that they were being patronised. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first Century this period was already seen by anyone who knew anything about life and culture to be truly daft. It eventually stupefied the locals by patronising them into thinking that they couldn’t understand any kind of culture that you had to think about for more than ten seconds. This led to the Scottish people becoming lazy. After being fed this sickly sweet culture mulch for many years they could no longer digest any kind of solid cultural food. They faded away to mere shadows of their former, robust selves, becoming thinner and paler and lethargic. They were losing the ability to think for themselves. Internationally, New Glasgow Culture was an embarrassment.
The Trongate Affair
This period ended for good in 2013 in what became known as The Trongate Affair. By this time various members of Transmission Gallery and other independently minded cultural spaces located in the area, had succesfully infiltrated over the years various committees and held numerous important positions in the local and national culture councils. From these positions they were able to undermine the whole sorry system and eventually brought the whole New Glasgow Culture crashing down around the ears of those who had been too deaf to listen to the detractors, who had foreseen this moronisation of the people.
This ‘coup’ was unfortunately deemed to be illegal and resulted in Transmission becoming a proscribed organisation and being forced underground. Here it flourished under the patronage of a local artist who had become very rich and famous by selling his work outside Scotland and who asked nothing in return except that the gallery continued in the way it always had. Just after the debacle of The Trongate Affair, the final nail in the coffin for the city fathers was the Purple Wednesday Crash of 2014. Printed money became obsolete overnight, causing mayhem and revolt across the globe, particularly from those who didn’t have credit cards and were therefore excluded from the new system. Since many people in Scotland still lived a hand to mouth existence this was, indeed, bad news for the city fathers. It was all over for them. New Glasgow Culture has gone for good (or so everyone thought).
So, ironically, although the period of New Glasgow Culture is now wholly discredited, and has in fact become an aphorism to describe the banalisation of culture, it is this period the new city fathers chose to represent in Scotia – The Living History of a Small Nation, fifty years after the debacle itself. This was simply because it was the period that had garnered the most global media attention and everyone remembered it, for better or worse. Some say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I’m not so sure.
Thus, as it was in Real Life, now it is in the theme park.Transmission is still a proscribed organisation but continues to flourish to this day, presenting thoughtful, challenging exhibitions in temporary, out of the way spaces. Some aspects of its exhibition structure resemble the popular rave culture of the late twentieth Century, where you hear of a new exhibition from a complex grapevine of friends and acquaintances. People gather illegally on their days off from working in the theme park arranging to meet at a particular ferry terminal somewhere, desperate to see something new and real and engaging. For although the park is fascinating to the tourists, it is, of course, very, very boring for those who live and work there. Transmission events and exhibitions have become somewhat vogueish with the more intrepid tourists who vie with each other over the most obscure and exciting shows they have seen, but it is mainly the indigenous population who enjoy them. Unfortunately these exhibitions get closed down with great rapidity as they are illegal. Records are always kept in the old book form and these get distributed widely although they are banned and destroyed if found. Sometimes these books are produced in such a way as to look like a relatively innocuous text or history book, so they can be surreptitiously inserted into public library collections. A strategy currently popular is to place these books into public collections of times gone by, using a standard linear time shift document transferral. Thus the books and information of the future are already in circulation decades before the actual events described have happened.
If you hadn’t guessed already, this is how you are able to read this history now, almost one hundred years early. This document transferral technique usually doesn’t change much of the course of history because the future always seems too fantastic to believe before it actually happens. I mean, who would have believed the incredible history of the twentieth Century if you’d foretold it in 1899? Thus it is with the twenty-first and twentieth Centuries. So let us take a moment to join together, raise a glass and make a toast to Transmission. Happy hundredth birthday, here’s to the future…
(To be continued…)
- Colour is art’s greatest resource: pervasive and elusive, evanescent and full of surprises. (7)
- Luscious colour lures emotion and intellect, passion and reason in equal measure. (7)
- The physical material of colour informs the configuration and content of an artwork. (7)
- Even the most pervasive colour dug straight from the ground need to be discovered and then transformed from rock or dirt into materials fit for art. (7)
- Different ranges of colours were available, or desirable, to artists in different regions and at different times. What are those colour pallets? How does sourcing affect what art looks like? (7)
- Once colour has become a substance for use in art, it is manipulated according to methods that speak to its time and place to reflect its maker. (7)
- How do colours directly interact with each other? Are they physically separate or mixed? Gradual or bold?
- Why are colours chosen to interact? What would happen if they mix?
- How are colours layered? Do they create a particular tonality?
- Colour is much more than a HUE, hue signifies colour family (such as red/blue). (8)
- Intensity/ saturation signifies the amount of pure, undiluted hue that is present. (8)
- Tone refers to the degree of darkness and lightness. (8)
- While all of these elements are interlocked, that can be discussed separately. (8)
- Words that describe colour words are often blunt rudiments, lacking the appropriate vocabulary to describe what can be seen. (8)
- Language both reflects and limits conceptualization. (8)
- Colour is inconsistent, apt to change according to sensory and cultural contexts. (8)
- Artists and theorists have long explored the phenomenology of perception, nothing shifts that occur when colours interact, celebrating colour’s confounding instabilities and exploring its chameleon-like properties. (9)
- No unified symbolic code links specific colour to meanings; there are innumerable cultural and personal conventions (e.g. red=lust, provocation, violence, spirituality, virtue and status). (9)
- Alternatively, red might be used as a symbol for its ambiguity in order to demarcate shape, without any reference to symbolism. (9)
- Colour decorum is elusive and relative, just as colour perception. is (9)
- To what degree do questions about colour
origin’s or structures of classification align with how artists actually use
- Some theorists probe mechanisms of colour vision, the causes of colour or divine or mystical bases for colour orginisation.
- Others seek formulae for how colours are perceived, or to explain subjective effects of colour.
- Such colours are foundational and fundamental. To the earth, to life. (13)
- When art is derived from the earth, its physical material and its visual colour suggest literal and metaphorical connections to its source. (13)
- Although the colours of the earth are prevalent and relative easy to process, no colour is ready made for use in art. (13)
- The choice of a reductive
palette concentrated in the browns of the earth at the expense of more vivid
hues seems to have manifested for other artists certain emotional, political
and historical associations, as well as a deliberate choice of mood endangered
though colour. (13)
- Ochre: clay, and iron oxide is
unadulterated colour, used for decorative, symbolic and ritual applications.
- Ochre is plentiful, but ancient artists had to locate its deposits, extract of mine the rock and grind it into powder. (14)
- The powder had to be treated so that it would adhere to cave walls which had to be prepared beforehand, perhaps scraping. (14)
- Perhaps porous, damp surfaces were predisposed to bond with loose flecks of fine pigment powder; water in caves is rich in calcium carbonate, which might have effectively aided adhesion and preservation of the colour. (15)
- Extenders such as clay, calcite crushed bone and potassium feldspar would have altered the pigments coverage, and modifying hues. (15)
- Tools to apply the paint had to be made. Liquid or paste colour could have been applied in swaths with spongy mats of moss or animal hair. (15)
- Ochre: clay, and iron oxide is unadulterated colour, used for decorative, symbolic and ritual applications. (14)
- Earth pigments can do much more than simply produce colour: that can embody the land itself, concepts about its genesis and a people’s mythologies and spiritual symbols. (15)
- Ochre has been used to make art on rock, bark and textile and in sand. (15)
- It is also applied to human bodies as ornaments of an element of ritual, and it colour the material and spiritual aspects of community life as a central element in religious, political, social and didactic contexts. (15)
- Early religious paintings depicted figures wearing plain robes, non-colour. Nondescript colours were chosen over brighter shades to signify piety and simplicity. (18)
- It was also deliberate to avoid black and white, both of which were freighted with their own physical attitudes. (18)
- Black and white became proxies for conflicting views about the value of colour in the material world. (19)
- Ochre varies slightly with location, with warm, reddish shades of brown derived from peat deposits that have been long weathered and carbonized through slow formation. (21)
- With oil paint, pigment particles are suspended in oils that do not merely evaporate to dry, but link together on a molecular level so that the pigments become embedded in a solid organic matrix. (22)
- Umber is similar to ochre but contains manganese dioxide as well as iron oxide. (23)
- With red comes perceptions of taste, status, excess and control, all of which are wrapped in colour. (43)
- Red pigments were exotic and required dangerous sourcing, the creation of which required a mixture of vermillion and alchemy. (43)
- The red dyes were used to colour garments worn by the wealthy and powerful, which reveals the habits of behavior and associated colour regulations that controlled both industries and individuals. (43)
- Whether representing personal or political histories, emotional or social commentary, red has a powerful metaphorical pull. (43)
- When red is lightened by the addition of white, it becomes a completely different colour that carries its own coding: Pink evokes, sex and play to threat and violence, associated with red- but no longer. (43)
- A luxurious red (Roman era) made with cinnabar was highly valuable due to the high mortality rate in its mining- it is the principle ore of mercury, a toxic and deadly substance. (44)
- The medium used to bind coloured power into workable paste or liquid will affect its refractive or optical properties, the manner in which it dries and the way it can be handled with brushes or implements. (51)
- Opacity or transparency, viscosity, thickness and glossiness are altered according to a paint’s binder. (51)
- Few colours have been as loaded with metaphysical references as red, invoking connotations that range from blood, aggression and power to the most cherished virtue of charity.
- Red makes a vivid statement, but its meaning depends on context. (52)
- Colour helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain. (58)
- Coloured auras emitted by individuals could supposedly be seen and interpreted by clairvoyants, and colour chats and ‘though forms’ outlines theosophical approaches to colour as an expression of energies or feelings that involved theosophy’s capacity to express inner truths. (61)
These tests helped me establish how many sheets of coloured acetate I would need to layer together to build a completely opaque collection. I need approximately 5 sheets per colour to create a substantial chroma spectrum.
I kept building the layers of acetate until I got to a point of overlap. The added green to the red and yellow sections significantly outlined the beginning of a void space developing.
Once I added the final blue layers, the middle void space became very prevalent. The mid range of colours are mainly hidden behind the dark space, the red and blue end points are very vivid.
- Colour is art. It is a necessity.
- I make art to make colour. I am colourmaking.
- I use colour, but truthfully colour uses me.
- The colour spectrum does not reveal the whole picture.
- Colour creates its own story. I simply live it.