Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Colour is not just colour. Working with the Gods.

I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

From 'The world is too much with us' by William Wordsworth

When working with composition we 'deal' with colour, rhythm, tone, texture, form, light and so on: - the 'Elements of Design'. This is a way of thinking about the complexity of making a visual statement and generally we think of it as a set of tools with which to manipulate our imagery. This logical way of thinking is in line with a 'scientific' mindset that our culture has drifted into over the past five hundred years of human history. Before that, going back to the cave art of fifty thousand years ago and still alive today in many non-western cultures, the 'elements of design' were part of a much more dynamic and integrated way of understanding the world.

When we view 'art' from the distant past, on the walls of caves in southern France for example,or rock faces in Africa or Australia, we have to step into the mindset of those ancient people if we are to hear their true voice. In the process of attempting to do this, my own feeling for design has drifted away from a logical manipulation of materials and marks. It is a point of view that permits me to understand my expression, both drawn, carved, and photographic, from an enriched perspective.

The Chinese word for 'artist' is the same as 'magician', and it is within this way of thinking about the role of artist that I find resonance. Colour is not simply light waves, theories, logical manipulation. Colours are entities, powerful forces that are like little Gods. They lead vivid lives, speak a language of their own, form alliances, flow across the page, speak from the shadows or in the white heat of day. If I too think in this ancient way I have access to those powerful relationships.

 Similarly with the other elements: Line begins as I drag a brush or pencil across the page but instantly the line I am drawing begins to draw me into it. It has personality, opinions, is naturally supple or stiff, smooth or shaggy, We draw together. Rhythm beats the drum and dances across the paper, slow or rapid, in complex or simple patterns. Form pushes forward to fill the frame, or slips back into the haze, is dark and hairy or light and insubstantial. And all these work together in stunning variety and appear on the page as a new creation, almost, you might say, as a new being that can communicate with us. The artist and those archetypal forces, we, together, express....

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