Although a surprisingly large percentage of the population is color-blind (or in some cases, just deficient in recognizing one or two colors), looking at color as a significant way of speaking to us can prove to be a very beneficial exercise.
Most people recognize the power of color associations. Artist Christian Faur puts it this way:
“Colors and how they can express coded information is an area often focused on in field of design, art, physiology and philosophy. Easily identified iconography in conjunction with color can quickly inform us about potential dangers (warning=yellow, danger=red), it can guide us on what social expectations are, and easily identify product branding (Mc Donald’s, Coke, etc…).
The most common colors have a standard social precept in which specific colors might stand for a general mood or idea. These meaning do not often transcend the boundary of the society that has constructed the meaning. An example is the color black, which often stands for death in western society while it’s opposite, white, is used to symbolize death in the eastern cultures.”
Colors are powerful little things! They can dictate our actions, our emotions, our responses…. Interior decorators will tell you that if you paint your kitchen green, you’ll eat healthier and if you paint an infant’s room yellow, they might become high-energy and have a hard time sleeping at night.
As a visual artist and one who struggle with word-centered language [I'm sure there are a lot more of us out there than we realize!] I can resonate with Faur’s work and his attempt to re-orient our word-centeredness to be a more visual-centeredness language. He writes:
“My use of colors in painting and art has also increased over the last five years and I have become aware of how difficultly it is to find a universal meaning of color that can transcends the cultural boundaries in a similar way that the symbols used in written language and mathematics have become universal. In a failed quest to find universal color meaning, I hit upon an idea of just mapping colors to a pre existing system that can hold meaning, the alphabet.”
It’s a fascinating idea: attempting to make a universal language with color sequences. If it were possible to unite the world with a color language, I wonder what advantages and disadvantages there would be?
The Parable of the Language Tree (translation here)
Other artists I admire who use pure blocks of color extensively (although not necc. as a “language”):
Technicolor Prism, 2008
hand cut paper
Ciel Rouge, 2006
encaustics on four panels