Colour is a Cosmetic

‘a denial of death, a fiction of life’, Roland Barthes

Contrary to what many may believe, art university is hard. Particularly the final year. It is not all painting sunsets and playing with paper maché, it is stressful and confidence-knocking. It may only be the beginning, but the final year seems to bring with it a sense of urgency to have an amazing idea right now so we have time to develop and create it. For me, this has not happened yet and it is frustrating. I have ideas, but nothing that I want to take forward yet. I just need to keep remembering that it is still the start and it is normal not to know what you are presenting in May, but that doesn’t mean that you feel any better. My lecturer keeps telling me to just make things, just keep making and the ideas will flow.  I guess I should follow that advice.

After reading David Batchelors ‘Chromaphobia’, who I recently found out was born in my home city of Dundee, I was inspired to look more into the meaning of colour and its relation to white. I loved the idea of colour being a cosmetic, something that covers a white surface to hide the truth that is underneath. As Barthe stated, colour denies death as it is painted onto the faces of those who have passed on. It is also not true to life as colour is used to paint over and make things prettier. These statements are also true for cosmetics. They produce illusions or deceptions, much like a drug.

Cosmetics are a drug of the skin.

So with this idea that colour=cosmetic=drug I have found myself again stuck. My lecturer tells me not to get too bogged down in the meaning and to focus on creating right now which is what I have done.

Playing about with the white walls of my studio, just as Daniel Arsham does with his amazing works, I used the colour white and the texture of shaving foam mixed with PVA glue to manipulate the walls.

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There may not be meaning yet, but there is making. I saw this technique on Facebook, it was advertised as an arts and crafts exercise for children but I feel like I could develop it into something more. Another idea I saw on Facebook was putting skittles into water and letting the colour drain from them. I decided to try this out on top of my foam creations to see if this sparked any ideas. This allowed me to continue working with unconventional materials and was also fun.

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Recently, Skittles removed the rainbow colour from their packets and sweets in London for the weekend while the LGBT parade took place. They wanted ‘only one rainbow to be centre of attention’ referencing the LGBT rainbow flag. So the monochrome Skittles linked back to my white project and how taking the colour away leaves the truth. And in this case, I thought the truth was more appealing than the rainbow.

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I also played with levels to see how this affected my mood towards the piece (low hanging pieces in a gallery are seen as underprivileged). I feel like the colour takes something away from the work, like a cosmetic pasted over something that is already beautiful, the colour is not needed.

So for now I will continue to make, create and hope for something to come of it. Sometimes I just need to take a step back from the research and just have fun in the workshops. Next stop, 3D printing! Stay tuned.

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The Void

‘A bit of nothing- but more nothing-much than nothing-ness’ – David Batchelor

When there is a space of emptiness in our landscape, it is often seen as a void. Areas of white space placed in our environment are viewed as the same. A deep hole of nothing that can make us uneasy. When describing a void, we usually think of a quiet space outwith the city such as fields, lakes or outer space. My development with this phenomenon has resulted in me looking into voids in our urban landscape and how they silence an area that would normally be bustling.

This silence is where my two ideas from my previous blog post combine. The silent nothingness that white space brings to every day urban life connects to the silence I believe a life devoid of colour would create for someone suffering from Achromatopsia. We cannot describe a void using language, only silence, we also cannot describe colour using language to someone who has never seen it. Its an experience that needs to be seen and felt.

I was inspired by David Batchelors’ ‘Found Monochromes’- a series of photographs of white squares and rectangles that he has found in urban areas.

Batchelor states, “I often feel that abstract art is the art of the city and that the monochrome is its exemplary form”. Monochromes are seen as simple but as Yves Klein proved in blue and Batchelor in white, they are quite complex. His photographs display blank spaces that are out of place and detached from their surroundings, but are very much temporary. ‘Like errors in the visual fabric that have to be corrected’, they seem unnatural  and have to be painted over to put people at ease.

The following is a selection of photographs that I have taken in urban environments where I have felt silence and emptiness in the heart of the city. Urban voids, urban silence.

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Finishing off with a recent find I was inspired by while walking through town. I discovered voids in a street that I travel down quite often. South Tay Street in Dundee has many grills on its pavements that I literally walk right over and have never taken notice of before. They provide a little bit of nothing, an emptiness to the walkway that often gets overlooked. A little void amongst a concrete jungle.

I was inspired by David Batchelor’s ‘Found Monochromes’ to make my own white voids. I used circular paper plates as this is the shape we relate voids in outer space to be and placed them in empty urban areas. I found these ‘placed monochromes’ mimicked the silence of the forgotten land among busy areas and drew the attention of those who passed by to the land they usually ignore. I left the voids for a few days and when I returned each one was gone and the empty land reverted back into a forgotten urban void.

4th and Final Year – The Beginning

Its finally here, my last ever year of university and less than a year until my own degree show. 4th always seemed like a lifetime away but it has crept up so quickly it is terrifying.

So I have been thinking about what to create for my degree show and the work that has appealed to me from previous shows. I believe it makes sense for me to create work that I enjoy to see when I visit art exhibitions. At the previous DJCAD degree show there was a piece that really jumped out at me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the piece or the artist but I did get a picture.

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Shoes were covered in white paint and attached to a white wall. Each shoe represented five people that had gone missing in Fife the previous year. I love the idea behind representing lost people as lost shoes, but more so I loved that it was all in white. Artwork that is completely white is very appealing to me, perhaps it could be the cleanliness of it, the simplicity, the purity, or it could be the question that arises as to why the colour has been removed.

So at this early stage, I have decided to look into work that looks at the presence of white, the monochrome.I believe white work is not a lack of colour, but creates a world that is too cool for colour. It is emptiness, but also a space for limitless potential. So it is this potential that I am trying to hone in on.

As a side note I decided to read up on colour blindness. My boyfriend is colour blind, so using The Ishihara Test I was able to diagnose him to have Deuteranopia (green blindness).

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A plate from The Ishiara Test, people with colour deficiencies find it difficult to read the number 74.

Using an app called the Chromatic Vision Simulator, I was able to upload a picture of my boyfriend and see the world through his eyes. Left: normal vision. Right: Deuteranopia.

However, it is Achromatopsia that I have been concentrating on. This is a rare deficiency whereby the person cannot see any colour at all. I am very intrigued by the way life would look without colour. How would our every day life look without colour? How can we describe colour to someone who has never seen it? Does a lack of colour create an emptiness in their life?

There is a lot of research to be done, still a lot of confusion as to what I want to do which scares me but is probably good at this stage as I want to keep my mind open. So for now I will continue to research the world in white and see what other ideas I come up with. Stay tuned!