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A Colour A Day: Week 38

Ruth Siddall13 December 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 38. 7th-13th December

Jo Volley writes…

This week’s colours are accompanied by ‘Cobalt: Pigment of Hope and Destruction’ by Robert Mead as a response to the colours.

Cobalt shares an entwined history with both painting and technology. The mineral is capable of producing a range of different colours – perhaps the most commonly known is Cobalt Blue. This is a cobalt aluminate pigment and was first discovered in 1775 – with further modern production achieved in 1777, where the moistening of aluminium compounds with a cobalt solution turned blue and strongly calcined. A variety of other colours can be produced through cobalt; a range of violets can be created through a variety of different compounds – such as cobalt magnesium arsenate – and cobalt phosphate octahydrate. Cobalt Green has been made by multiple processes including the direct mixture of cobalt blue with ‘chromic’ yellow or a combination of cobalt and zinc or iron oxide. Cobalt Yellow is a potassium cobalt nitrate, first synthesised in 1831 – through the reaction between potassium nitrite and cobalt salts, creating a crystalline mass. Using cobalt, we are able to produce range of wonderful and unique colours. However, as a mineral its demand has increased alongside the development of new technologies – as a key component of batteries in laptops, phones and increasingly electric cars. The main source of cobalt extraction is in The Democratic Republic of Congo, whose history of colonisation by Belgium from 1869-1908 through to its independence in the 1960s is entwined with the desire for its available supply of minerals such as diamonds, copper and uranium. Now major western companies such as Apple, Dell and Microsoft have bought into the mining industry there, as cobalt suppliers for their lithium batteries, this high demand has led to quarries operating with dangerous conditions and often using child labour. Furthermore, both the pigment and the mineral itself hold highly toxic particles and when consumed or inhaled and can cause major health risk – increased through poor mining conditions. Further increasing the demand for cobalt is the development of electric cars. As we attempt to offset the climate crisis by moving to using electric vehicles, companies such as BMW and Tesla have also invested heavily in cobalt mining to acquire the material for powering them. In this case, cobalt is at the centre of paradox between hope for moving away from fossil fuels and towards clean electric energy and the negative consequences its acquisition results in. Without sustainable mining methods, its production is tainted by this problematic discord. In reflecting on cobalt’s significance for our future, it seems prescient that it was the key ingredient in what was considered the doomsday weapon of the Cold War – the Cobalt Bomb (or C-Bomb), theoretically capable of wiping out all human life on the planet and featuring in films such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Dr Strangelove. The use of cobalt would allow a much higher level of fallout to be released from detonation, many times greater than the level of residual radiation still present in the strata of the Earth from the era of nuclear testing. When we look at the alluring colours it can produce we can also consider that cobalt pigments are entwined with both our colonial and technological history and humanities attempts at both healing and destruction.

Robert Mead is a painter and PhD researcher at the Slade School of Fine Art. The aim of his research is to make paintings that form emotive connections between the viewer and our environment which draw them into wider hidden discourses. Robert says of his work; ‘Moving through the strata of my paintings digs up histories and ghosts that we may not wish to confront but are bound to our past’.

Each pigment is bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right:

Cobalt Violet Dark
Cobalt Green
Cobalt Violet Brilliant
Cobalt Yellow Pale
Cobalt Green Bluish
Cobalt Violet
Cobalt Titanate Green

A Colour A Day: Week 36

Ruth Siddall29 November 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 36. 23rd – 29th November

Jo Volley writes ….

‘Colour has been used chiefly in the past to as a means to display form – form being thought of as its obvious master.

The freedom of abstract thought has come, and shows us a future lying ahead of colour as one of the three great abstract arts.

Mathematics – music – colour. To those artist whose inspiration comes in the form of shape and shape relationships, colour may continue to be the means of expressing those shapes, unless it be that they find that light and shades a more suitable means for their purpose.

But to those artist whose inspiration comes in the form of colour alone, without reference to object or object sense, it is no longer necessary to set about seeking some form into which the colour maybe tagged to give it being.’

Extract from Winifred Nicholson Unknown Colour first published 1937, click here to continue reading,

Assorted Kremer pigments bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right.

Chrysocolla
Han purple
Celadonite
Realgar
Cavansite
Sodalite
Red Jasper

A Colour A Day: Week 34

Ruth Siddall15 November 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 34. 9th-15th November

Jo Volley writes…

This week’s colours are named after or made for artists and very much inspired by Caroline de Lannoy’s Colour Tale which I first saw at the Tate in 2000 and again last year at the Colour & Poetry: A Symposium performed by the Slade Colour Choristers. Caroline de Lannoy says of the work.

‘Much of my interest has been in the way in which language impinges on our perception, both in its everyday contexts and in works of art. The world has millions of colours. Why do we only name a few? The human eye can see about a thousand levels of light – dark, a hundred levels of yellow-blue, a hundred levels of red-green. This means that the human eye can distinguish about ten million different colours. But human language categorizes these into a small set of words. Throughout the years I have collected 1153 colour names. These colour names, are both abstract and referential. Some colour terms are metaphorical extensions of what are originally object names; some derive from the world of nature, some come from paint materials and others from my own interpretation. ‘Colour Tale’ deals with the relationships between communication and perception, between the spoken words and the visual. It illustrates the ambiguous implications for perceptual research of findings dealing with linguistic and visual classification. Carefully measured and adjusted the written elements or declarative statements comment on aspects of communication, vision, and any specific sites. The colour names are composed as a body of theoretical discourse, and as a ‘visual’ poem, to create a mental image or a fantasy picture, and to develop thinking spaces. Free for the imagination the colours become as intangible as ghosts in the air. The passage of the words sparks off continually the ability to remember fundamental experiences and it invites the audience to take part, by assigning images to the words, thus translating the auditory impressions into visual ones. The rich structure of association around these words call up images and stimulate the emotion and the imagination of the hearers, conveying different ideas to different persons – for a word is a signifier and has many possible signified. This is a prime case of audience participation. The listener is free to make his-or her individual interpretation, to construct his-or her own fantasy picture, and to ‘see’ his-or her personal colour perception since the subject matter is out of sight.’

Please listen to Colour Tale performed here by Eddie Izzard

Colours read from left to right:

van Dyck brown – Lefranc & Bourgeois gouache
Veronese green – Lefranc & Bourgeois gouache
Titan red – mixture
Klein blue
Stuart Semple orange
Prout’s brown ink – Roberson
Corot green – Lefranc & Bourgeois gouache

 

A Colour A Day: Week 33

Ruth Siddall8 November 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 33. 2nd-8th November

Jo Volley writes… This week we have more food colourants accompanied by the first stanza of John Keats’ (1795-1821) poem To Autumn.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
  Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Colours read from top to bottom:
Blueberry
Rosemary
Forget-me-not
Blackcurrant
Lavender
Passion fruit
Grape

 

A Colour A Day: Week 30

Ruth Siddall18 October 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 30. 12th-18th October.

Jo Volley writes…

In October 2015, whilst on research leave, I travelled around Provence visiting pigment quarries, mines and factories to look at pigment manufacturing methods and processes. In this marvellous red landscape, I have never felt such a strong emotional relationship between the landscape and painting.  The trip was also something of a pilgrimage to visit the bibliotheque in Aix en Provence to view a remarkable manuscript made by the C17 Dutch artist A. Boogert who in 1692 completed an educational manual of how to mix every colour available to him. Each pigment is bound in gum Arabic and applied to paper with instruction as to their properties, proportions and potential. It is an extraordinary document of the pigments available at that time and of an artist’s dedication to learning. It was a humbling experience to hold in one’s hands this rare and beautiful manuscript, and to feel a connection with Boogert’s endeavours. The timeless and common manufacture of binding colour and making paint. The sheer pleasure of it… and its desire to communicate. It has also been the inspiration for this project.

Each red earth is bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper.

Collected: Sentier des Ocres, Roussillon.
Purchased: Sentier des Ocres, Roussillon.
Purchased: Sentier des Ocres, Roussillon.
Collected: Les Mines des Bruoux, Gargas.
Collected: Mathieu Ocre Usine, Roussillon.
Purchased: Les Mines des Bruoux, Gargas.
Purchased: Mathieu Ocre Usine, Roussillon.

 

A Colour A Day: Week 29

Ruth Siddall11 October 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 29. 5th -11th October

Jo Volley writes…

In the early 1800’s the mineralogist Abraham Werner published the Nomenclature of Colours to identify minerals by key characteristics. It was later amended by Patrick Syme, C19 Scottish flower painter, having been introduced to it by Robert Jameson who had studied for a year under Werner before becoming a professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University. Jameson had matched Werner’s descriptions with the actual minerals, Syme then used these as his starting point for the colour names, descriptions and actual colour charts introducing references to animals and vegetables. Darwin took a copy on the HMS Beagle voyage (1831-1836) and its terminology, ‘lent both precision and lyricism to Darwin’s writings, whether he was detailing the changeable ‘hyacinth red and chestnut brown’ of the cuttlefish, ‘the primrose yellow’ of species of sea hare, or the ‘light auricular purple’ and provided his naturalist contemporaries with clear point of reference, and enabled all his readers to clearly envision the creatures and settings of lands that most, in a pre-photography age, would never see.’

Extracts from Publisher’s notes Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, Natural History Museum

 

 

A Colour A Day: Week 28

Ruth Siddall4 October 2020

A Colour A Day; 28th  September – 4th October

Jo Volley writes…

This week’s colours are seven Russian earth pigments gifted by Ruth Siddall who says of them. ‘These seven pigments are supplied by Moscow-based company Colibri Premium Pigments. Many of the earth and mineral pigments they supply are sourced in Russia. This is a selection of their ochres, which include iron ochres (red and yellow ochre) and aluminium-rich earths known as bauxite (deposits much overlooked as ochres). Siderite is iron carbonate. Also included here are two very ‘Russian’ pigments made from minerals mainly known only from deposits in Russia. Shungite is a black, carbon-rich earth pigment. It is found in very ancient, 2 billion year old rocks in Russian Karelia, in the region of Lake Onega. It is named after the town of Shunga. It formed as biogenic deposits, probably from algae preserved in anoxic conditions and then subsequently metamorphosed. Volkonskoite is a green-coloured, chrome-bearing smectite clay mineral. It is sourced from the Okhansk region of the Urals. Tuff is a volcanic ash deposit, in this case coloured purple by iron oxides.

Ruth suggests listening to Sibelius’s Karelian Suite whilst viewing the colours.

All pigments are bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right:

Tuff Purple
Siderite
Mumia Bauxite
Shungite
Sankirnaya Ochre
Volkonskoite

A Colour A Day: Week 27

Ruth Siddall27 September 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 27; 21st-27th September

Jo Volley writes…

This week’s colours are inspired by Anni Albers’ 1926 wall hanging Black White Yellow exhibited at the Tate show in 2018. In her book, On Weaving, she states; ‘Continuing in our attitude of attentive passiveness, we will also be guided in our choice of color, though here only in part. For our response to color is spontaneous, passionate, and personal, and only in some respects subject to reasoning. We may choose a color hue – that is, its character as red or blue, for instance – quite autocratically. However, in regard to color value – that is, its degree of lightness or darkness – and also in regard to color intensity – that is, its vividness – we can be led by considerations other than exclusively by our feeling. As an example: our museum walls will demand light and have a color attitude that is non-aggressive, no matter what the color hue and whether there is over-all color or a play of colors.

First column top to bottom:
Davy’s Grey – W&N Watercolour
Turner’s Yellow – Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic
Gris Lichen – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache
Primary Yellow – W&N Designers gouache
Davy’s Grey – W&N Watercolour
Turner’s Yellow – Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic

Second column top to bottom:
Velvet Black – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache
White
Velvet Black – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache

Third column top to bottom:
Primary Yellow – W&N Designers gouache
Gris Lichen – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache
Turner’s Yellow – Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic
Davy’s Grey – W&N Watercolour
Primary Yellow – W&N Designers gouache
Gris Lichen – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache

Fourth column top to bottom:
White
Velvet Black – Lefranc Bourgeois Designers gouache
White

Fifth column top to bottom:
Spectrum Yellow – W&N Designers gouache

 

A Colour A Day: Week 25

Ruth Siddall13 September 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 25. 7th-13th September

Jo Volley writes…

A method for making shell gold

Grind either skewings or leaf gold with a small amount of clear honey into a paste using a muller and slab. Work the muller slowly in a figure of eight until you have the mixture spread out thinly on the slab, gather up and begin grinding again. Continue this process for approx. 15 minutes or until you have broken down the gold into fine particles. Place the mixture into a glass and fill with hot water to flush out the honey.

When the gold has settled to the bottom of the glass decant the water.
Repeat approx. 5 or 6 times until all the honey is removed. De-ionised or distilled water is recommended for the last 2 stages. Allow the gold pigment to dry. Bind with gum Arabic and store the gold paint in a shell.

All pigments are bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper.

First column left to right: Four gold pigments gifted by the artist, Lisa Milroy, collected on her travels in China.

Second column top to bottom:
Schmincke pale gold
Jo Volley’s shell gold
Schmincke rich pale gold

A Colour A Day: Week 24

Ruth Siddall6 September 2020

A Colour A Day: Week 24. 31st August – 6th September

Jo Volley writes…

This week we pay homage to the maillot jaune of the Tour de France with seven historic yellow pigments and celebrate Adam Yates, English cyclist, wearing it for the first time. The maillot jaune was adopted in 1919 by Henri Desgrange, director of the tour, to distinguish the leader of the race more easily within the peloton. Desgrange was also editor of the sports paper L’Auto which funded the tour and printed on yellow paper. To quote Jens Voigt, who wore the maillot jaune for a day during the 2001 tour, ‘Yellow is a beautiful colour, no?
All pigments are bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read from left to right:

Gamboge

Lead tin yellow

Orpiment

Alizarin yellow

Naples yellow

Indian yellow

Aureolin

In memory of Tommy Simpson, the first British cyclist to wear the yellow jersey.
30 November 1937, Haswell – 30 July 1967, Mount Ventoux.