A Colourful Life

How do I choose and apply colour, not just in my work but within my home, clothes, surroundings and life? It’s a big question, and one I have been itching to delve in and unearth more. I start by looking around my home and wardrobe, taking photographic swatches of colours I have chosen to wear and surround myself with. It’s been a labour of love restoring my Victorian home,  and I’ve spent a huge amount of time souring and selecting, textures, colours and furnishing.

So, what do I like? What am I drawn to? It’s clear I like bold and rich blocks and splashes of colour – bright but controlled. I’m certainly not happy around neon or expanses of garish colour and pastils shades don’t seem to have a place in my life. I think I have grown into a more sophisticated colour palette. The same pattern is evident in my own work, circling deep hues of greens and blues, alongside flashes of orange and often upon clean white and grey backgrounds.

OMI Jewels

Up to this point in my MA, I have been aware of colour, but it’s probably true that most of my choices have been subconscious, a natural extension of my personality, but when I have made a conscious decision, it’s been purely aesthetic. It’s clear with the direction of my project, I now need to consider the emotional impact colour may have, or the individual memories that may be attached to certain shades. Our collective or differing cultural symbolic understandings of one colour, or in mourning, danger and happiness, for example.

The bright and bold works of Peter Chang are easy to like, the playful colour spectrum pulling the viewer in. In studying his work, I am aware that I am far more drawn to monochromatic work – What happens when you reduce a colour palette, or purely explore the lightness, saturation and hue of a singular colour. The exhibition Black on Black, curated by Jo Bloxham at Manchester Art Gallery, back in 2015, featured 17 jewellery artists from 10 countries.

‘I have always loved black jewellery. From bold antique accessories to dramatic contemporary pieces, black jewellery gives off a powerful message. At times it has been a dark and sombre communication, expressed by the 19th century jet mourning jewellery and Berlin Ironwork on display from Manchester Art Gallery’s costume collection. These poignant black treasures were popular fashion statements up until the end of the 1800s.

Today, jewellery artists continue to be inspired by the colour black. This exhibition highlights the work of 17 contemporary jewellery artists from 10 countries. They have each worked with the colour black, using unconventional materials and a variety of different techniques, to express present day concerns and emotions.’

At the other end of the monochromatic palette, the works of Melanie Bilenker are in muted tones of white and ivory. Bilenker’s work completely captures my heart, she draws upon the historical approach of Victorian memorial jewellery and sentimentality creating miniature portraits using strands of her own hair, capturing moments of the past before they are forgotten. The minimal use of colour combined with the small scale is incredibly powerful  – It aids in asking the viewer to take a step closer, inviting you in for a second more considered look.

The enamel paints I have been using most recently in my work, are for classic cars, courtesy of my partner’s garage and aptly named; Volkswagon Brilliant Orange; Rover British Racing Green; Rover Henley Blue and Renault White 348. What wonderful names, they instantly imply their is a little more to the story, a time gone by. Colour can be a window into the past, it can make you nostalgic and be a powerful tool in transporting you to a different time or place. Perhaps one of my next steps should be preparing vintage and historic colour palettes, correlating to certain eras and fashions and working how I can make these relevant in my own work. I am also intrigued to see what will happen if I reduce my colour palette right down.  Overall I need a better grasp of what colours I am using and most importantly to continue to ask why, why, why…

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