Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Chromosurrealist Manifesto

This article can also be found in the Writings section of my website on the following page:

The Chromosurrealist Manifesto

When it comes to colour there are two types of people; those who think in colours, bright hues, or tones, greys. I'm a natural tonalist, as are all classicists. The mastery of colour is essential however. More than just duplication or nature, mastery of colour is control over the psychological action of colour and it's symbolic representation.

What is colour in a painting? Objects can be literally painted. What colour is the sky? Light blue in the day time, yellow at sunset, black at night. What colour is a tree? Brown and green. What colour is any object? It depends on the atmospheric and reflective conditions, the colour of the light shining upon it, the materials the object is composed of. Objects then can have a literal colour, assuming the light is white.

Problems begin when the imagination suggests alternatives. What if the sky was painted green? Or red? What if the skin here was blue? There are too many options, and that creates difficulty. Sometimes I have painted a picture and liked it only to grow to dislike it, and sometimes disliked a picture upon completion only to grow to like it. The "true" pictures were the ones that survived, ones that represented one idea with clarity. Transient feelings of what is attractive are not reliable. As ever, feelings must be rationalised.

Colours can also be symbolic. Pink and dark green represent a rose, and a rose love and other things. Light blue can symbolise the sky, freedom and heavenly calmness. Violet and black symbolise death. Thus; colour itself can be a surrealist object, capable of stimulating the subconscious. Baboons are driven mad by red. Green is calming. Pink, invigorating.

Irrespective of a specific hue or tone, colour contrast can determine mood. A clash of tones or compliments can represent panic and discomfort. Colours that match are calming. The mastery of colour is vital because a painting must be true, and the colouration must also be true and represent the same message that the symbols and feelings of the picture itself represents.

So what is to be done? Classical surrealism is the imagery of dreams, but colours in dreams are more difficult to determine than object or scene symbology. The ability to mentally visualise colour is not easy. It comes with practise and experience, just like imagining the sound of a chord as opposed to a melody, it is something composers gradually learn. I define chromosurrealism as the pure representation of subconscious colour. I am not a classical surrealist however. Automatism and access to personal symbology and mind states is of vital importance, but that alone is of little use, and to be truly representational it is important to know and rationalise a subject. As such, colouration must be subjected to the same rigorous calculative rationalisation of emotion that imagery is. That is not to belittle any composition as a flight of fancy or fantasy! The opposite is true. An ideal representation is the dream of a mind that lives the idea.

An infinity of options is necessary to transliterate an infinity of ideas, and an infinity of colour choices is also necessary. The task of the artist is to finitise infinity.

A painting dictates mood, and areas of a painting can dictate mood. The first rule is that vivid colours convey a message loudly, and grey and ashen tones are delicate whispers.

The second rule is that hues can be pleasant and chordant, or dangerous and acidic and that areas of hue contrast are used for this purpose, to create calmness or panic. Areas of tonal contrast (that is light and dark) similarly create a stab of interest and drama, but being whispering tonal contrasts will lack the visual impact of a hue. A tonal contrast has the impact of the past, and a hue contrast the impact of the future. Neurolinguistic Programming indicates that images seen in vivid colour are accepted by the brain and images seen in black and white or fuzzily are rejected. Hues grab attention more than greys.

The third rule is the rule of symbology. As with object symbols, colour symbols can be local, colloquial, known only to a small number of people, or global, or anywhere in between. Almost all humans recognise red as the most passionate and alerting colour. Linguistic research indicates that the colour red is the first word for a colour that evolved. Red in the context of a bull fight might indicate antagonism, even if it's not true that red excites a bull, the mythology makes red a valid symbol in that context for and to those who understand the myth. Light blue represents a calm clear sky to all humans. Nature imparts many colour symbols in it's sunsets and plant and animal forms.

The colour of one object can impart it's symbology onto another; a sky blue car would give the car qualities of the sky.

That is all there is to be said. Amen!

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