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"colorconsequence" Tag


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Color consequence.

As a student in the Basicyear at the Rietveld Academie I have started to discover the lack of teachings on the consequence of color. Many of the employees in the Academie I have discussed this matter with has answered (according to my perception of their given answer) that it is not an up-to-date topic. Yet I consider myself aiming at this from a painting perspective, the knowledge of color consequence is important, so it seems, also within the realm of what I define as Design. The Rietveld Academie has been described to me, during my time as a student, as it takes great pride in the use of what could be called ”The Bauhaus” model. Design and Fine arts share the same space with all of the crafts that you can fit into those two realms.  What I have started to investigate has begun to make me realize that there is color consequence to pretty much everything for someone whom has the ability to see, and is therefore of upmost importance as a subject in our education for every department in the Academy.

Johannes Itten mentions in his introduction of the book ”The Elements of Color” a simple example of how important color can be to space,

– ”The mausoleum of Galla Placidia, now at Ravenna, Italy, is dominated by a remarkable colored atmosphere of grey light. This effect is produced by bathing the blue mosaic walls of the interior in an orange light, filtered through narrow windows of orange-tinted alabaster. Orange and blue are complementary colors, the mixing of which yields gray” 1.

He goes on giving examples on how the element of color is used in other scientific professions,

– ”The physicist studies the nature of electromagnetic energy vibrations and particles involved in the phenomena of light, the several origins of color phenomena such as the prismatic dispersion of the white light and the problems of pigmentation. He investigates mixtures of chromatic light, spectra of the elements, frequencies and wave lengths of colored light rays. Measurements and classification of colors are also topics of the physical research.”

“The chemist studies the molecular structure of dyes and pigments, problems of color fastness, vehicles and preparation of synthetic dyes. Color chemistry today embraces an extraordinarily wide field of industrial research and production”.

“The physiologist investigates the various effects of light and colors on our visual apparatus-eye and brain – and their anatomical relationships and functions. Research on light -and dark- adapted vision occupies an important place. The phenomenon of afterimages is another physiological topic”.

“The psychologist is interested in problems of the influence of color radiation on our mind and spirit. Color symbolism, and the subjective perception and discrimination of colors, are important psychological problems. Expressive color effects, what Goethe called the ethic-aesthetic values of colors-likewise fall within the psychologists province.” 1.

It strikes me how color is such a essential part of our visual world that it is crucial to understand how it works, it is a very subjective matter among humans but also between species. If I look to nature I would like to state that the fundamental meaning of color is communication. Communication in the way of understanding what to avoid and not to survive.

After having some time digesting this research, having discussions with students, teachers and people whom are not professionally involved in fine arts and design, I’m starting to change my approach towards color and its consequence, also understand why color does not have the same essential role in our education as it had for the Bauhaus students. The other week my roommate had his father visiting. We were strolling around the center of Haarlem (NL) when we decided to enter The Frans Hals museum. An exhibition suggesting contemporary aspects of Frans Hals work was showing including art works by contemporary artists. One of the main focuses was the color of the walls in the museum rooms. Instead of the normally used white, changing hues of a green/yellow color represented each room. Even if I read this before entering I did not notice how the constant change of hue was effecting our approach towards the exhibition. I was very focused on analyzing the art itself, until my roommates father (my room mate had been in the same over analyzing state as me) suggested that the change of wall color had effected how we criticized the exhibition and it’s art pieces showing. It struck me that I’m so over focused on criticizing artworks that I lose perception of what else is happening around, which might suggest that my overthinking of how I use color based on the old color studies published is only an obstacle and not an asset. During painting classes after this I realized how I produce more balance with color by not thinking about the old color studies but by using my instinct. So after presenting my idea last time in class a short discussion with our design teacher ended up with him stating that our contemporary perception of color and its consequence is a common knowledge based on that the society we grow up and is now posses with a greater awareness, in difference from to what people during Itten’s time learned and experienced. Though Itten also said;

”For the artist, effects are decisive, rather than agents as studied by physics and chemistry. Color effects are in the eye of the beholder. Yet the deepest and truest secrets of color effect are, I know invisible even to the eye, and are beheld by the heart alone. The essential eludes conceptual formulation” 1.

We are observing the world and our reality from our perspective, the person next to you has another perception of reality. We tend to assume that the rest of the people have the same moral, same understanding and same ethics as oneself but when it comes to what is right or wrong, good or bad I would like to think that there are as many truths on this planet as there are humans. One reality for every human. All others, plants and creatures on the planet, experiencing the moment in ways not understandable to humans. This also would mean that there is one perception on color for every human, so in the end it is up to the artist to determine what purpose the colors used fits his or hers reality. Josef Albers writes in his book “Interaction of Color”,

In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually” 2.

Color study from the book Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. 2.

For a more contemporary (digital) approach towards color please visit “The Color Library” made by Maximage.  Maximage is a Swiss collaborative studio established in 2008 who created a website they call ”The Color Library”. You can also visit the website where it is described how color is used in the Rijksmuseum.

If you have further interest in reading about color please visit some of the other color researches at the designblog, here is also one on surface.

Additionally here is a link to a lecture on Color Theory from YouTube.


  1. Johannes Itten, The Elements of Color, John Wiley and Sons Inc, Hoboken, 1970, page 9, 12 and 7.
  2. Josef Albers, Interaction of color 50th anniversary, Yale University Press, London, 2013, page 1.

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