Thursday, 20 February 2014

Colour as Synaesthetic Experience in Antiquity

^ "The Wine-Dark Sea" by Randall Stoltzfus (2004)

Dr Mark Bradley writes for us about the broad range of allusive meanings and sensory references mixed up in the delightfully metaphoric & inconstant nature of colour description in the ancient world.

"Colour is about more than just lightwaves hitting the retina. In ancient philosophical circles, colour was often described as the primary object of vision: it was the external ‘skin’ that existed at the surface of an object, and what made the object visible or ‘sensible’ to a viewer. And yet, Greek and Roman literature is riddled with examples of colour categories that do not make sense simply in visual terms: from Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’ to ‘whey-coloured’ skin in ancient medicine, from blushing faces to the honey-coloured hair and marbled skin of coveted girls in Augustan elegy, and from the saffron garments of decadent easterners to the expensive fishy-smelling purple robes of the late-antique imperial court, colours appealed not just to sight, but also to smell, touch and taste. This essay suggests that colours in pre-modern societies such as Greece and Rome, because of their close ties to specific objects and phenomena (rather than just parts of the spectrum), were frequently synaesthetic experiences which appealed to multiple senses and mobilized more than just eyesight. Colour was a basic unit of sensory information through which ancients experienced and evaluated the world around them, and the collaboration of the senses in these experiences suggests an approach to perception, knowledge and understanding that could be very different from that employed in the modern west."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Reproduced with the permission of Acumen Publishing from S. Butler and A. Purves (eds) (2013) Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses (‘The Senses in Antiquity’ series, volume I). Durham: Acumen. See

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Saturated Space V: The Drama of Colour

Thanks to everyone who came to our fifth event at the AA on the 10th February 2014, marking the second anniversary of much colourful discourse about Architecture, Urbanism and the Arts.
Please see below for the online versions of the lectures that were given that day, and click HERE for the rest of the online lectures on our Vimeo channel.

Above, Juliet Rufford on Performance Studies & the Uses of Theatricality

Above, Ivana Wingham on the Roman Baroque & Illusion

Above, Brian Hatton on Decoration Vs Ornament

Above, Antoni Malinowski on the Theatricality of Colour & Line

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Out of the Blue and Into the Pink

^Still from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" 1953, 20th Century Fox (source)

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Courtney Coffman writes about the 'colour that shall not be named', the luminous prancing preening painted fleshy omnipresent elephant in architecture's proverbially very white, abstracted and empty room...

"Culturally known as the most kitsch and taboo colour, pink has been making a recent appearance in contemporary architecture. At present, the history of pink in its use in architecture and art has been theorized and recognized by few, yet the use of pink elicits modalities of affect. Moving beyond the confines of domesticity and feminine spaces, pink may be claiming new disciplinary territories but there remains a self-consciousness as many practitioners restrict its application to interior-specific conditions. Yet, when pink does move into an exterior condition, the project remains domestic in scale. From book covers, installations, interiors, pop-up shelters and objects du jour, it seems fitting that pink is saturating contemporary discourse as the colour itself oscillates between natural and artificial, flesh and mechanization, innocence and sexuality. More definitive than the themes pink embodies is the specific hue of pink in contemporary work: magenta. Perhaps magenta is the new-and-improved cathode ray blue, despite its appropriation to novelty and popular culture."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.