Colour and Vision at the National History Museum

The curatorial text on the walls of the exhibition said something which implanted itself in my mind as an urge to be inspired.  It stated that humans ‘are relatively plain.  We have no stripes and no neon.  We do not shimmer, we do not shine.  It falls upon us to invents a relationship with colour.  In our homes, our artworks, our jewellery and our technology.’  The most pivotal part of what I read was the following:’we use colour to create our identity and to represent our feelings.’

There were examples of many uses for colour in nature and the development of colour through history as detected by study of the evolution of the eye.  What we see is what we perceive.

I know that we use colour to co-ordinate, organise and indicate.  It can be used as a form of control in our world, attempting to connect individuals with the society and culture we have established.  Royal blue comes with connotations of authority, hence uniforms of authoritative figures are made from this colour.  The palette we use is as varied as the palette in nature.

The three main purposes of colour: to warn, hide and attract are the essence of life, being the contributors to the cycle of survival and reproduction.  Absorbing the exhibition alone has made me reconsider my use of colour.  Only yesterday I was relishing the range of oil colours I had acquired, but stuck on how to best use them.  Translating feelings and experiences into colours was something I started thinking about, but that also led me to consider, what is my art intended to express and how can colour translate?


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