Monday 7 May 2012


^Azzurra by Nathalie du Pasquier, april 2012, photo by Alice Fiorilli

To talk about colours we have to name them and to name them we have to use names of things which have that colour. It is the evocations the names bring to our mind that make us imagine them.

Listen to these: emerald green, moss, sap green, veronese, eau de Nil, almond green, olive green, pine green, bottle green…and then Naples yellow, tired green, green with envy, caput mortum, ivory black, ultramarine, aile de corbeau (another black with a blue reflect like on the wing of a black bird), Indian yellow, gorge de pigeon.

A blue guitar, the red square, Dingo yellow dog Dingo, the black sea, blue mountains, la place rouge ├ętait blanche, the black square of Malevitch, the red apple Snow White ate and then she died, a black cat, the red cape of the toreador, bloody Mary and Blanche de Castille.

“Colours are life”, they don’t exist without light, and they would not exist without these wonderful instruments, the eyes. They say the eye can distinguish 30.000 different colours. I don’t really believe it, too many, far too many, this is an abstract scientific possibility, maybe not a conscious real one, I could never remember all these colours, just maybe notice the tiny variations between them on a chart and then forget them, but this scientific declaration is the proof there are many colours!

Is poetry a science or is it just a brief moment in which the poet and the reader meet around a combination of words, open an unexpected door to unknown perceptions? Can we plan poetry?  Maybe we can just work on it, concentrating the most personal and mysterious aspects of our mind around an idea that is impossible to define, it will find its definition in the poem itself and in no other way. For colours maybe it is the same. Of course there are rules about harmony and one can follow them and achieve a pleasant result, but -deeply- colours are a very personal sense because they involve, like all things relating to so called “sensibility”, a myriad of physical, intellectual and emotional connections.

Pompeian red: you are taken to a roman villa where lying men dressed in white peplum are served by young Egyptian slaves elaborated dishes, animals stuffed with animals stuffed with other animals, from the big ones to the small ones, and there is marble on the floor, outside the Mediterranean is blue but the walls of the room are red. That is all you see in a fraction when you hear Pompeian red.

The way we found to describe a colour is to associate it with something which has the same colour, if we don’t know that thing we don’t imagine the colour, if we have never heard of Pompei we shall have a very different idea of Pompeian red even if we probably could also name it with a number corresponding to a scale of reds. To name a colour is to remember something we have seen, to connect sensations. Indian red, vermillion, carmine, cardinal, geranium, strawberry, cherry, brick, a packet of Marlboro, rosso bandiera, bandiera rossa…rosa Tiepolo.

post by Nathalie Du Pasquier, an artist practising in Milan. Before moving into fine art, she was a leading designer of the Memphis Group

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