[Tig] What color is it in here?

Richard Kirk richard at filmlight.ltd.uk
Mon Mar 30 18:00:04 BST 2009

Rob Lingelbach wrote:
>> In his 'Ulysses deriding Polyphemus' you see in the moored ships on 
>> the right of the painting, that the detail is done on brown and red, 
>> strange brown and red, where you would normally expect features in 
>> shadow to look cool, as they are lit from the sky.
> yet this, being a work of art, should (if I take Tolstoy's definition) 
> reflect the feelings of the painter (not to exclude science from 
> art).  He may be trying to convey a sympathy, or a mood.
There are all sorts of codes you can send in art. Red has been linked 
with passion since medieval times, and blue with sanctity (mostly 
because ultramarine was so expensive, so it was only used for some 
high-status subject such as the Virgin Mary). There are also cinematic 
codes such as 'If It's Purple, Someone's Gonna Die' (Patti Bellatoni)'. 
However, these codes can only be correctly interpreted if you know what 
the author is trying to say. There do not seem to be clear links between 
mood and colour that cross all cultures. Goethe described the moods of 
his Red, Blue, and Yellow primaries as 'Serene' for the red corner,  
'Mighty' for the blue corner, and 'Melancholic' for the Yellow,  whoah 
Maan, I got the yellows, I got the yellows reeeal baad (da-Da-da-Dum), 
etc. I don't think I agree with any of those.

I think the blue for night phenomenon, though it is not a blue that any 
current color measuring instrument will see, is nevertheless something 
that feels 'right' for anyone. Even some of these phenomena have to be 
learned. Brunelleschi had to demonstrate that we saw things in 
perspective by 'wiping' between his drawing and a mirror. However, once 
we overcome our resistance to the unfamiliar, then it 'feels right' to us.

Richard Kirk

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