Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Do you see the same colour that I do?

Is it true that colour is not a “thing” but the observer’s mental sensation?

What is it about colour that mesmerises us?

Colour surrounds us and indeed sometimes there is almost a bombardment of colour on our senses. You have only to think of the vibrant neon lights in the cities. Many thinkers have written about colour – Aristotle, Sir Isaac Newton and Goethe to name a few. There are numerous books on the scientific aspects of colour theory – Google “colour” and you can spend a lifetime reading.

We impart emotional qualities to colours and give them symbolic meanings. Different cultures give colours a variety of meanings. Red can indicate danger or warning – a red stop sign but the red heart is also a romantic symbol. How did we start to the tradition of using pink for girls and blue for boys? In nature colour has a purpose. We have only to take a look at the plumage of male birds. Almost without exception the boy birds outshine the girls in the colour stakes.
It’s comfortable for us not to have to question the colour of everything we see. It’s time-consuming to judge each object rather than just accept that an orange is orange. Yet once we start to analyse the colour of objects our assumptions are constantly challenged.
As with drawing where the base of a vase standing on a table is often drawn flat – the brain knows that it HAS to be flat because it is sitting on a flat table – so too the brain knows the sky is blue, clouds are white, and trees are green. Yet how often is the sky not blue but yellow?
The colour of objects depends on the light they reflect.  We also know that other colours change to way we perceive objects, particularly when complementary colours are adjacent to each other and when their proximity sets up a visual vibration.
Exploring colour and all its mysteries is a fascinating journey.

(For my American friends - I know you think it should be spelt "color" but I do like the "u"! )