What is colour – without Language? | project reference and notes

‘The title of this project has been adapted from a poem by the French writer Jean Follain.
Follain’s use of language, his sense of the miniature, the modesty of his subjects, and the relationship of his poems to memory have influenced its general outline – A project that asks you to think about colour as the material of art.
‘A small painting of seven apples by Paul Cézanne arrived in England in 1918. It sat in the hedge at the bottom of the farm lane leading up to Charleston, while the economist Maynard Keynes, who had acquired it from the sale of Edgar Degas’s collection in Paris, carried the rest of his luggage up to the house. Duncan Grant ran down to fetch it. From then on at Charleston, where Keynes left the Cézanne for a period, and then in Roger Fry’s studio, where it also lodged for a while, it became the object of intense scrutiny. ‘What can six apples not be?’ Woolf asked, miscounting the apples in her amazement at the attention this small painting attracted. She wanted to understand its power, for as her diary entry records, the apples seemed to get redder and rounder and greener, while the other paintings in the room seemed to recede, to pale into insignificance.’
(Frances Spalding, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision. National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2014.)

By starting out from one of thirty (30) poems/pieces of writing selected for you to study (by John Berger, Charles Baudelaire, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Bowles, Geraldine Connolly, Jean Follain, John Glenday, Geoffrey Hill, Michel Houellebecq, Kathleen Jamie, Jane Kenyon, Hester Knibbe, Michael Longley, Mary Oliver, Francis Ponge, Marion Poschmann, Rainer Marie Rilke, Edith Södergran, Katherine Towers, Natasha Trethewey and Virginia Woolf) we would like you to study the question, what is colour? within the context of a fluid understanding of the landscapes of language and technology, and in particular, the visual and critical languages of fine art … … and make an artwork out of your discoveries, the only stipulation is that it starts out from your response to one of the pieces of writing provided.’

(from ‘What is colour – without Language?’ The third of three first semester Fine Art studio projects; General Foundation in Art & Design, DJCAD, University of Dundee.)


And complementing my reference to comments that Geoffrey Hill made in an interview:

‘In my view, difficult poetry is the most democratic, because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing that they are intelligent human beings. So much of the populist poetry of today treats people as if they were fools.’
And Hill continued …
‘We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most ‘intellectual’ piece of work. Why is it believed that poetry, prose, painting, music should be less than we are? Why does music, why does poetry have to address in simplified terms, when if such simplification were applied to a description of our own inner selves we would find it demeaning? I think art has a right—not an obligation—to be difficult if it wishes.’

… further related arguments may be found in this article by Rebecca Watt – https://www.pnreview.co.uk/cgi-bin/scribe?item_id=10090 – taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January – February 2018.

Untitled|eight seventeen

Apricots
Black caterpillars
Blue washing lines
Mary, mother of Jesus, sings of her grief at the loss of her child
Midnight meadow-verge wild flowers

Sneezing white sheep
The colour of the absolute
Vanilla sponge cake
White magic
Withered clumps of thistle fluff – for the pillows of the dead

‘Indefatigable dazzling
terrestrial strangeness.’

New Music

March| Viridian, viridian, green, green, green
March| Silver, silver, green, viridian, turquoise …


‘Sharp stripes of shadow lay on the grass, and the dew dancing on the tips of the flowers and leaves made the garden like a mosaic of single sparks not yet formed into one whole. The birds, whose breasts were speckled canary and rose, now sang a strain or two together, wildly, like skaters rollicking arm-in-arm, and were suddenly silent, breaking asunder.’


‘In the garden where the trees stood thick over flowerbeds, ponds, and greenhouses the birds sang in the hot sunshine, each alone. One sang under the bedroom window; another on the topmost twig of the lilac bush; another on the edge of the wall. Each sang stridently, with passion, with vehemence, as if to let the song burst out of it, no matter if it shattered the song of another bird with harsh discord.’


‘The birds sang passionate songs addressed to one ear only and then stopped. Bubbling and chuckling they carried little bits of straw and twig to the dark knots in the higher branches of the trees. Gilt and purpled they perched in the garden where cones of laburnum and purple shook down gold and lilac, for now at midday the garden was all blossom and profusion and even the tunnels under the plants were green and purple and tawny as the sun beat through the red petal, or the broad yellow petal, or was barred by some thickly furred green stalk.’


‘The birds sat still save that they flicked their heads sharply from side to side. Now they paused in their song as if glutted with sound, as if the fullness of midday had gorged them.’

Songbirds

March| Green, silver, silver, green, yellow, green
April| Turquoise, silver, turquoise, turquoise, green, turquoise
April| Silver, yellow, green, green, green, silver
May| Green, turquoise, silver, silver, turquoise, silver
May| Yellow, turquoise, green, green, silver, green
January| Turquoise, silver, green, silver, silver, turquoise
January| Silver, silver, turquoise, turquoise, silver, turquoise
January| Green, green, silver, silver, turquoise, turquoise, silver, turquoise, yellow
January| Green, green, green, green
February| Silver, turquoise, turquoise, silver, green, yellow
February| Green, green, silver, green, turquoise, silver, green …

I close my eyes—on all my certain things.

Stay with, or abandon you? This is what the stars are saying to each other, up there, above the garden, in the dust of centuries.

The glow behind your eyelids is a painting without title, shows you open the bruise blood bending over in a field, an orange vendor at a fairground, your elephant, Eden (you sold your car to buy her) joyfully stripping leaves from trees in the garden—Angel Mugler, Miu Miu, Chloé drafting from the aircon of cars as they pass you on the verge of a dual carriageway leaving town; in your chest, mixing it with a silage of cardamom, sweat and lamb’s wool the sky feels closer than usual, the outskirts of the city, counterfeit. There’s something of the sky in you tonight, a dirty uneven breath. You were loved more than once but were in fear of … Well. What? Behind your eyes who now sleeps?


‘I rode down to the street floor and went out on the steps of the City Hall. It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way – but not as far as Velma had gone.’ (Raymond Chandler)

The rubber is discovered under a foam mattress in a child’s wicker basket at a recycling centre. It’s oblong and rounded at each end, covered in small dark spots where the end of a pencil or pen has been pushed into it. Some of it is shiny and a darker shade of grey. It feels smooth and cold in my hand. On two of its sides the words ‘elephant’ and ‘Sky’ are tattooed into the silky smooth surface with black biro. On another, ‘I am all alone Dear Emily …’ again, done with great care, in blue biro this time. One side is clear. Outside it’s raining heavily, has been for days. The sky is the same dirty shade of grey.

To one side is a squat, unremarkable church (of Scotland) in a simmering lake of tarmac. A woman lies face down in the rain weeping in its comfortless shadow, her turquoise skirt and pale blue cardigan bleed into the foreground—that it’s not Queen Victoria, you know already. The car you arrived in has pulled up in front of a tall building made of glass— ‘… for the best’ silences: It’s not what you said, but it was what you wanted to say. Yellow leaves flutter to the ground as you step away from the car, your one tear, your only possession, slips down your cheek and falls onto the woman in the turquoise-blue shadow, pure enough to calm her—your childhood sentence: normcore corduroy; a brutal cult.

… between WHITE SCALP seagull SHANWELL and TONY SCALP midday LUCKY SCALP

There’s no door on the building, no door on the day, no glass in the windows, no wind to speak of, no blue in the sky. ‘With A Pure Heart’ is marked up above the sink—in Matador Black filled with Elizabeth Pink. ‘slowly, meditatively’ a peach scar in the woodchip. ‘Our Laws Are Still For War’ in a New York ghost-cap Soviet Red across an electrical panel. On the ceiling ‘I Did Not Know’ in Pineapple Yellow seeping through ‘My Heaven’ in Aspen White. ‘AUS DEM KOPF’ by the window in a single pass of Iced Vermilion. The buzzing of bees in a nearby bush and the spectral echo of a fat cap breathing a chord of paint into the future … hohhhhhhhhhhhh … the only sounds in the room, for it is still a room of sorts. You swept the floor of rubble and glass because writing over someone else’s work wasn’t an option and concrete like this is porous and soaks up paint not like the walls. ‘PLEASE Me’ is in pink, ‘Don’t Leave’ in blue. Who were you writing for? Who was to read this?
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’


‘Love is time travel—still I dream of your arrival’ (set against a sky blue background in ‘Epitaph,’ a serif face influenced by the types cut by Jessica Möll between 1449 and 1516)

‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
You implore your sanity. You are prostrate, weeping for your God. You are still in the room leaning on the windowsill with one knee resting on a chair looking out towards the sea. You are still in the room—there is no voice that the sea will not put in its mouth. This is the first line that your body longed for, words without much use now that you are unable to remake what followed. It is the room speaking. This is Eden. You are like a cat delivering a dead mouse, in control over what you give. It is the room speaking, the room is cruel. This is Hell.

Next to the door outside (it’s been painted over but you can still make it out) you’ve written ‘Trust me I’m the Doctor’ in Mercury Yellow. Perhaps your name is Emily.