The clothes we wear, the colours in which we surround ourselves, they say something about our selves. Designers and artists understand this and they use colour to make statements. Over time these statements can evolve into a symbolic language within the history of that system. Thus in Christian religious art, for example, white can represent purity. This is one, very formal, level at which colour may be said to be a language.
A common understanding
However colour goes much deeper than this. One does not need to be an expert to relate to the language of colour. It is connected to our common heritage. An excellent place to research this is in the expressions of our spoken languages. The examples are becoming familiar: seeing red (anger), being in the pink (love), to be green (inexperienced), feeling blue (sad), even to be “off colour” (not quite right, a little ill).
It is not just in spoken language though. Around the world red and blue taps indicate hot and cold water, no need to speak the local language. Deep inside our experience tells us that someone red may well be hot – perhaps from exercise, emotion (or even sunburn!) while someone looking blue may well be extremely cold (as the red blood is prevented from flowing to the skin’s surface). At a collective level we relate to colour as a signifier – a language.
Colour at work behind the scenes
– a green example
Just as an example - in Britain actors wait in the “Green Room” before coming on stage. I do not know where the term originated. However, once you know the language of colour, this colour association makes perfect sense. Green is the colour above yellow in the rainbow, and yellow is the colour of the self – our ego. To act is to take on the role of another, and thus the presence of green is very helpful in order to step beyond yourself. And, in case you have the question “Why not orange?” we can say that while orange is the colour which precedes the yellow and is the experience out of which the self is formed, it is green which corresponds to the next step in our personal development, the beginning of letting go. Thus the green room is perfect to support the actor as he / she prepares to temporarily become another!
Just the beginning...
As you go deeper into colour more and more of life’s colours become meaningful, clues to understanding. Colour becomes a language, a prism through which to see the world. For me this exploration is truly fascinating and underneath all of my work.