Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Colour and Feminism

Yves Klein Monochrome Painting IKB47, 1956
Yves Klein, Monochrome Painting IKB47 1956

I generally don't like to trot out personal politics, but here's a wonderful quote from Philip Ball's fantastic "Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color" (which I'm re-reading this month):

On engaging with the beauty of raw colour, he writes,

"This goes against our training. What is brightly colored? Children's toys, the Land of Oz. And so color threatens us with regression, with infantilism...

What else is brightly colored? Vulgar things, vulgar people. Color speaks of heightened emotions, even linguistically, and of eroticism...

The nineteenth-century art theorist Charles Blanc (what's in a name?) insisted that 'design must maintain its preponderance over color. Otherwise painting speeds to its ruin: it will fall through color just like mankind fell through Eve.'1 Here, then, is another reason to distrust color: it is feminine."2

That's one of the prevalent ploys of women's oppression - that we're equated with/reduced to children. Helpless, silly children. Misogynistic (colourist?)3 infantilism.

Colour perception is so fascinatingly culturally dependant.
I've read interesting diatribes on the choice of pink for breast cancer awareness. Apparently, Newton chose seven colours for his rainbow based on the prevalent ideas that seven was a proper number for scientific classifications.

So, glory in the wonderful retina-l dance that is a beautifully coloured hank of yarn! You don't have to explain your colour attraction to anyone, dammit!

1C. Blanc, quoted in C.A. Riley II, Color Codes. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1995, p. 6.

2Philip Ball, p. 13-14.

3Hmm, to coin a term (and steal a word), Colourist; a person who is prejudiced against particular colours based upon culturally dependant definitions of and symbolism with said colours.


Bonnie said...

I remember seeing a Klein blue painting and being absolutely struck speechless by it. It was so beautiful. I am sad that there are people who don't allow themselves to be moved by color.

Hilary said...

This is very, very interesting. I had never thought of color being associated with women/children/infantilism, but it's very true. And I agree with you -- damn them all! It's a sad day when we refuse to enjoy the things we actually do like because we're afraid of being labeled.

Batty said...

Interestingly, I have some bright blue yarn that is about to be turned into a cardigan. Bright, intense blue, not too different from the Klein painting. And anyone who dares call me childish is likely to be subjected to Feminist Rant #103. You know, they're like the Ferenghi Rules of Acquisition, there's a rant for every instance of sexism one is likely to run into. Sadly, the n umber of rants is not finite. I guess that makes them different from the Rules.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I'd never thought about color in quite this way (Does this show how un-well-read I truly am?), but the psychology makes perfect sense. Thanks for shaing.

meredith MC said...

I know I'm late to this post, but my computer was stolen in December and I'm only know catching up with my peeps. (tee hee) anyway, I love this post so freakin much! What does all of this say about those of us who occasionally like to sport wildly colored tie-dyes? I personally think Eve was brave in her choices, to give up the protection of their heavenly father for knowledge. Very courageous. Makes me want to break out the tie dyes I haven't worn for ten years and revel in the glorious color. The looks of either appreciation or confusion/disapproval will show exactly who is repressing their feminine side.