Unreal Nature

February 18, 2017

To Experience Color

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… Only then will the colors, before embedded in their objects, be set free to speak in their own pure language, the language of the senses.

Continuing through Language of Vision by Gyorgy Kepes (1944):

… The number in an audience defines not only the quality and the intensity of the voice of the speaker, but also the nature of speaking. The character of a dialogue is naturally different from that of a speech to a mass meeting. Easel painting, the expression of a historical period, developed a form of visual dialogue. It spoke a language of tête-a-tête. It was the historical manifestation in the pictorial art of the spirit of individualism. But the historical background is changed.

… The number of the audience demands an amplification of the sound and a leveling down of the language to common interest and common idioms. The microphone helps to adjust the voice to the greater dimensions of the audience. The mass spectator demands the amplification of optical intensity and a leveling down of the visual language toward common idioms. Such idioms demand simplicity, force, and precision.

… There is no time now for the perception of many details. The duration of the visual impacts is too short. To attract the eye and convey the full meaning in this visual turmoil of events, the image must possess, like the traffic sign, simplicity of elements and lucid forcefulness.

[ … ]

… Light is the life-giving basic energy for any organic experience. Orientation, in its basic meaning, is man’s adaptation of the solar energies bottled up in the infinite variety of nature-forms. The experiencing of light — in other words the sensation of colors — stands for the organism’s security and thus has a quality of affirmation. To experience color is to interpret the very core of physical reality in terms of sensory qualities.

… Since the Renaissance, representational tendencies have been focused upon the exact portrayal of the modification of local colors by the effects of illumination. Light and shadow, the reflection of one color on another, the color of the light-source, and other optical modifications were carefully recorded as painters strove for accurate representation of the optical appearances of objects from one fixed point of view. Unconditional surrender to the appearances of the thing was an inevitable consequence, and through such submission to a shallow naturalism, the sensory quality of colors was gradually drained out.

It is a familiar experience that the sensory quality innate in a sign, in a word, in an event, comes in time to be absorbed by the thing for which it stands. Only by repeating a familiar word over and over again, for instance, can one bring back into it the sensory quality of its sound, make it independent of context, and restore its original sensory intensity. One must look at a familiar landscape from a position which gives an unfamiliar retinal image of the familiar relationships of its component objects if one is to sense the original intensity of the colors of that landscape.

[line break added] Only then will the colors, before embedded in their objects, be set free to speak in their own pure language, the language of the senses. The consistent search to represent all apparent aspects of the visible surroundings led, paradoxically, to the liberation of the sensory quality of color. In the control of the play of light on objects, painters had included the space between the objects in the object-world. they had widened the representational grasp of objects by including the atmosphere, the air, as a light-modulating substance.

My most recent previous post from Kepes’s book is here.




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