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.



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.


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.


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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