Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blue, colour of the imagination

Blue is a mysterious colour, hue of illness and nobility, the rarest colour in nature.It is the colour of ambiguous depth, of the heavens and of the abyss at once… of the blue movie…of anode plates, royalty at Rome, smoke, distant hills, Georgian silver, thin milk and hardened steel  – Matthias Ostermann, The New Maiolica

Blue is tout court, the colour of imagination – James Hillman
Yes Klein Monochrome

Do you think about blue? We are awash in it: the skies above us, the seas beneath us, which has everything to do with light of course, but it’s paradoxically rare in nature - which may account for its lack of lexical attribution in many languages. Cultivating blue roses and tulips is a horticultural grail which promises fame and reward.

Blue marks merit and distinction: cordon bleu, blue chip, blue blood. Blue diamonds are very valuable and lapis lazuli was once prized above diamonds. The old masters used ultramarine to paint the robes of revered subjects like the Madonna and Christ and the more saturated the colour, the greater its symbolical and actual value since ultramarine was made from ground lapis lazuli.
Few artists tackle blue. Picasso, Chagall, Anish Kapoor but most notably Yves Klein have all used it with striking effect. For Kapoor  "…blue reinforces a sense of freedom… The immense inspires us all. Eyes wide open if you like." And then there’s the dizzying breathtaking must-be-experienced saturation of International Klein blue (ultramarine pigment suspended in resin): "From a phenomenological point of view your eyes can't quite focus on blue." For Klein monochrome painting was also an "open window to freedom," and blue held the power to reveal the indefinable, the unknown. His famous symbolic gesture of signing the sky maybe says it all.

Mystics hold that seeing a tiny blue light in meditation is to experience the goal of human life. The throat chakra, symbolising communication, is blue, and the third eye chakra referred to as the gate which leads to higher consciousness, is indigo. The medicine Buddha is translucent blue and certain Hindu gods have blue skins.

In short, the Smurfs are in good company... and if you're feeling blue, there is nothing like a shot of Yves Klein (even on your computer screen) to notch you up!

For a compelling academic essay on blue, also referencing her own work, see Virginia Mackenny’s Blue – a shifting horizon (posted with permission) below.

Void - Anish Kapoor

ADDENDUM 30.12.2011:
Male blue-eyed satin bower birds decorate the inside of their nests with blue bits: feathers, candy wrappers, flowers, glass fragments, bus tickets, ribbons, bottle tops - to attract females who respond to blue.

Photo: R. Major © Australian Museum

PS A must view: Ali Smith - 'The truth about Green'

1 comment:

  1. Glad you worked out how to post the essay! That eye in the satin bower bird is quite something!