london and colour

London as a Schiele Painting

london is pretty grey at the moment. grey skies, lots of wet grey concrete, frosty windows, dark brown wet bricks and saturated black asphalt roads. you’d be forgiven for a frown every now and again.

and it’s in this monotonous colour field that london seems to have a history of wacky colourful architectural customisation.

Coloured doors.jpg

the first i noticed about it was the doors. islington, chelsea and kensington all have rows and rows of the same kinds of houses, separated only by their brightly coloured doors. apparently it was an early way to separate each house (unsubstantiated, but wikipedia gives me no love on the doors), and i guess a way to bring an individuality to the edifice, whilst still be ‘tasteful’.


then, there’s notting hill’s love of painting each house in a row a different colour, seemingly as a way to give the street a bit of razzamatazz, in amongst the drab monotony of upper-middle-class life. or maybe just for the sake of a postcard shot – i don’t even know.

but seeing them again the other day, i started wondering why london loves its colour spectrum – from the doors and the garish houses, to the infamous tube map and its organisation/identification based on colour. is it as an antidote to the ever-pervading greyscale, or is it something greater than that? or am i reading too much into things..

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she sees #EB2735

Thanks to my friend Esther, who came up with that great title! Even though it’s a geek’s joke, it did get me thinking about how the hexidecimal system is continuing to change the semantics of colour, which the advent of the Pantone Matching System did up until now.

When asked to describe the colour red, one more often than not has to use a qualifier – red: like something-or-other and the adjectives have been as poetic as the range in tones: alizarin, ruby, crimson, scarlet. The manufacturers of colour and consequently in colour language has traditionally been in the hands of artists’ colours – Windsor & Newton and Old Holland. interior decoration – Dulux, Wattyl, British Paints, and kids’ drawing materials: Derwent and even Crayola have influenced the colour perception of generations. [Check out this ace post about the whole Crayola spectrum!]

And even thought it’s a number-based exclusive system, I know that I have a fondness for the OG Pantone cataloguing system, but i’m a freak from the printing industry. The sentimentality about that standardisation is only just starting to happen now – with the mugs, bags, etc, but it’s still based a

I’ll be interested to see what the vernacular is around colour in the coming generations. Will my children grow up to feel nostalgic about #EB2735? Will they have a physical association of the hexidecimal system colours, in the way that I do about Scarlet Crimson, or Cadmium Red, or even Pantone 201C? especially given that the hexidecimal system is primarily a projection-based, online application?

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book report: colour after klein

i’m not sure if i’ll start doing regular book reports, but after seeing Andrew Frost‘s Fascination in (inside) on a Philip K Dick book, I realised that I don’t give much blog time to the books I like. I’m going to try and correct this a little by gushing over a new book that I bought accidentally on purpose from amazon.

Accidentally on purpose? Ok, just quickly: you may remember that I went to the NGV a few weeks’ ago. In the interminable mire of satanic temptation, otherwise knowns as the bookstore, I discovered a great book called Colour After Klein. My kind of book, filled with lovely stuff – pics of artists whose work i admire, words by some of the same bunch and all in a nice, large format that you can either keep precious, or scribble over and fill with post-it notes. And it was too expensive for me at the time. I vowed to save up my pennies and get it.

Then I snuck a quick peak on amazon on the day that it was announced that the exchange rate between the US and Australia had jumped to 0.92! With that exchange rate, it was going to cost me less than half the price from the NGV.
So i put it in my shopping cart, to see how much it would be with shipping.
It looked like a fab deal.
I pressed Confirm Order, just on the off-chance that my credit card might squeeze out a drop of blood, but fully expecting the polite amazon equivalent of ‘fuck off and earn some money before you bother me with that rubbish’.
What i got in return was ‘Your order has been processed and will be shipped as soon as possible’.

So, back to the book:

Anish Kapoor, 1000 Times

It’s based on a great exhibition from a couple of years ago at the Barbican in London (great gallery, bad 70s architecture that just manages to scrape into looking good), and is edited by Jane Alison, published by the fabulous Black Dog Publishing (where I would love to work, some day, please).

The subtitle, Re-thinking Colour in Modern and Contemporary Art is short, sharp and nicely to the point too!

The book features a whole swag of images/text and loveliness by some of my favourite artists:

Donald Judd
Yves Klein
Anish Kapoor
Sophie Calle
Louise Bourgeois
Helio Oiticica
Felix Gonzales-Torres
Mona Hartoum
Dan Flavin
and Joseph Beuys

It also features specific text by Yves Klein, Helio Oiticica, Nuit Banai and Donald Judd and the essay by Jane Alison, Colour Me In is fantastic, covering a variety of theoretical standpoints on colour, including structurally, psychoanalytically, scientifically and phenomenologically. She’s pulled out quotes from the big-guns: Wittgenstein, Newton, Kristeva, Merleau-Ponty, plus loads of quotes from the featured artists.

I’m already sticking post-its all over the pages and wrestling with the age-old question of whether I write in the book or try to preserve it. And I’m even taking it on the train with me and reading it in bed! I never do that with art books, they always stay stoically on my bookshelf, but this particular one is like some kind of personal jesus, or something.

On a formal note, the book has just the right amount of big glossy pics that make you want to dive right in, smaller pics that illustrate a point, and text. Given that I’ve seen some of the works up-close-and-personal, and that the reproduction of colour can be such a fucking farse, the print job is also fantastic. [Oh dear, it’s all over, I’m analysing the print reproduction of artworks and judging a book on it accordingly. Hmm]

This is the exactly the kind of publication that glossy art books need to be – the right amount of fetish and education, so that you can either just enjoy, look at the pretty pictures, or you can delve in, pore over it, learn some and get inspired. Well done to all concerned with this one.

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