What is colour — without Language?

‘Like an auditorium built by the Bauhaus on the edge of a park, all green and green swans.
Green swans, she said.’
—Quinn Latimer


—Jude Walton, The return of Nadja-Léona

‘The title of this project has been adapted from a poem by the French writer Jean Follain. The project started out life in Follain’s use of language—his sense of the miniature, the modesty of his subjects, and the relationship of his poems to memory. These continue to influence its overall scope. By starting out from one of the texts selected for you to study we would like you to explore the subject of colour and make an artwork from your discoveries.’ (from the Project Brief)


The writers
Baudelaire, Charles A Carrion | ‘Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire’ translated by Geoffrey Wagner (NY: Grove Press, 1974)
Bishop, Elizabeth Sandpiper | ‘Poems’ (Chatto & Windus, 2011)
Brecht, Bertolt On Thinking About Hell | ‘Poems 1913–1956’ this poem translated by Nicholas Jacobs (Methuen, 1976)
Connolly, Geraldine The Summer I Was Sixteen | in ‘Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry’ (Random House, 2013)
Follain, Jean In This Light, The Key & Works | ‘From Elsewhere’ translated by Ciaran Carson (The Gallery Press, 2014)
Glenday, John A Difficult Colour | ‘The Apple Ghost’ (Peterloo Poets, 1989)
Houellebecq, Michel Veroniqué & Grey House | ‘Unreconciled: Poems 1991-2013’ translated by Gavin Bowd (William Heinemann, 2017)
Longley, Michael Telling Yellow | ‘Angel Hill’ (Cape Poetry, 2017)
Oliver, Mary Blue Horses | ‘Blue Horses’ (Penguin, 2014)
Pizarnik, Alejandra le temps tombant … | ‘The Galloping Hour: French Poems’ translated by Patricio Ferrari & Forrest Gander (New Directions, 2018)
Ponge, Francis The Umbels & The Magnolia | ‘Unfinished Ode to Mud’ translated by Beverley Bie Brahic (CB Editions, 2008)
Sappho Fragment 6, 34, 54, 151 and 152 | ‘If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho’ translated by Anne Carson (Virago, 2002)
Södergran, Edith The Colours’ Longing & Violet Twilights | ‘Love & Solitude: Selected Poems 1916-1923’ (Seattle: Fjord Press, 1992) & ‘Dikter’ both translated by Stina Katchadourian (Helsinki: Holger Schildts Förlagsaktiebolag, 1916)
Woolf, Virginia Thursday 4 October 1934 | ‘The Diary of Virginia Woolf’ Vol. 4/1931-1935 (The Hogarth Press,1982)

Reading | Resources:
Literature
Marguerite Duras, Albert of the Capitals (Rough Draft) Translated by Linda Coverdale: ‘Wartime Notebooks’—the Pink Marbled Notebook—in The Lover, Wartime Notebooks, Practicalities (Everyman’s library, 2018)
Derek Jarmin, Chroma: A Book of Colour (Century, 1994)
Quinn Latimer, Like A Woman: Essays, Readings, Poems (Sternberg Press, 2017)
Maggie Nelson, Bluets (Jonathan Cape, 2009)
Mary Oliver, an interview with Krista Tippet first broadcast as an edited extract on Radio 4’s ’Short Cuts’ programme by Josie Long. Find the full interview here: https://onbeing.org/programs/mary-oliver-listening-to-the-world-jan2019/

Visual Art
Stan Brakhage, The Text of Light (1974): ubu.com/film/brakhage.html
Aleks Danko, Here we turn everything into fun to kill time, 2003 & No! No! No! No More Museum of Créche Art – cut the boredom (after Bruce Nauman), 2019 https://suttongallery.com.au/artists/aleks-danko/
Graham Fagen, Our Shared, Common, Private Space, 2011 & Scheme for Consciousness, 2014: http://www.grahamfagen.com/works/year/2011
Derek Jarmin, Blue (1993) https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/jarman-blue-t14555
Yves Klein, IKB 79 (1959) https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/klein-ikb-79-t01513
Ana Mendieta, Selected Film Works (1972-1981): http://www.ubu.com/film/mendieta_selected.html
Carolee Schneeman, Interior Scroll (1975): https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/schneemann-interior-scroll-p13282
Carolee Schneeman & Mary Beatty, Interior Scroll – The Cave (1975 – 1979): http://www.ubu.com/film/schneemann_interior.html
‘When Home Won’t Let You Stay’: https://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/when-home-won%E2%80%99t-let-you-stay-migration-through-contemporary-art

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.