amongst books

amongst books

Friday, May 06, 2011

for those who love colour

Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Findlay
the first book i ever read specifically about colour. it’s full of wondrous tales about colour in art, fashion, design, health, music, pretty much everything you could imagine. there’s a wee bit of science for the layperson too, explaining how colour works. here is the story of colour from the cave to the canvas, from the indigo workers to the Spanish ox-blood coloured fatty beef stew. this is a collection of fascinating stories.

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
the history of cochineal, the brightest, strongest red in the world

The Primary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux
blue, red and yellow in history, art, textiles, literature. love the way this book wanders and takes imaginative leaps from one instance of blue to the next. from eye colour: Hitler’s eyes were blue to a blue vegetable dye made from human urine.

Kandinsky's Concering the Spiritual In Art has a big section on the psychology and theory of colour from 1911.

Pigments Through the Ages
a brief description of the history of specific pigments and their symbolism, often with references to art.

Crayons: Crayola colours

the colour clock represents time as a hexidecimal colour value.

part of my interest in colour comes from my synaesthesia. i have grapheme synaesthesia which means i associate letters, numbers, people's names, days of the week, months and a few other things with colour. for example pain for me can be a green ache, a yellow throb, a white sharp jab and sometimes other colours like brown, purple and red come into play.

Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses has a great section on synaesthesia; in his memoir Speak, Memory, Nabokov talks about how musical notes evoke textures for him.

Another good book is Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds by Patricia Lynn Duffy.

As a child, i didn't know that i was doing anything unusual when i mixed up colour and names, for example i would sometimes call someone green if their name was Steve. i got 4 and 5 confused because they were blue and green and that seemed similar to me. at some point, i was trotted out at parties and asked to tell people what colour their names were, like a child psychic or carny act. my sister wrote down the correspondences and would test me on them every once in a while and they stayed constant. i've done tests and my synaesthaesia seems to be still very high. if you'd like to do a test, you can take one here.

after being treated a bit like a circus act, i figured i was the only person with this thing, i didn't know it was a condition and i didn't know it could be quite extreme for some people. some people have severe physical reactions to colour or smell or other senses. at 18 in university, i was exposed to Baudelaire's Correspondances and Rimbaud's Voyelles, two poems where senses are blended. Voyelles was particularly exciting for me and confusing. Rimbaud's matches were not my own.

how does this show up in my writing? when i first started to workshop my poems with others, i was told that my colour associations were arbitrary and made no sense. they probably still don't, but it's not something i have heard in the last 5 years or so.

i'm also quite gaga for visual poetry and visual art where colour is prominently featured, such as abstract expressionism, Mark Rothko's pieces.

i found it difficult when i was in hospital due to the lack of colour or the lack of strong colours. everything was white, pale blue, pale yellow. these pale colours were also in my delusions.

if you know of other sites or books on colour or synaesthesia, please let me know. and if you are a colour lover like me, you're a kindred spirit. i'd love to hear more about your colour proclivities.


I Love You said...

Lovely post, Amanda!

A friend sent me this link:

Haven't read it, but would love to. I see colours associated with music and feelings, mostly.

<3 Sharon

Amanda Earl said...

thanks, Sharon & thanks for the link to the book. in Ackerman's book she explains that synaesthesia is accounted for by the existence of the limbic system, the old caveman brain.