B.A Fine Art Year 2 Art Project Gallery

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I would like to display my art-work in the areas depicted in the photograph below for the following reasons.

(1)

Just like with ‘brick with life trapped inside’, from the outside there is nothing, other than a boring brick. However, closer inspection shows there’s life and beauty trapped within, if you look.

However, as one normally walks by without looking, there may be a door into and a door out for the observer to see reality, but often the doors are not used and the reality is ignored.

The reality is that life and beauty trapped is there within, but remains hidden and cut off from the outside world, as people tend to not always see what’s alongside, or prefer to ignore.

This area mimics this, as even though there are doors both sides (one being at the beginning), few open that door and those that do walk straight past and out the other side without taking in what they’ve walked past.

With little external stimuli (mirroring my life), the observer can be forced to focus – that is my hope.

I myself am a ‘brick with life trapped inside’, often bypassed.

My intention is to visualise the issues and attempt to expose hidden beauty that human form ignores out of ignorance and encourage beauty and colour to grow around and eradicate the dark satanic despair that dominates our industrial lives.

(2)

I’m also advocating sight/sense as I’ve also attempted to draw attention to natural colours by extracting natural colours from natural materials, rather than use man made paints and colours, to some extent; I have emulated our forefathers and the beginning of art – ‘the cave man and his cave paintings’.

Again, the cave man made the the cave his studio and its walls his canvas.

He painted his surroundings for prosperity with the colours he had and saw, but again they were hidden in the dark gloom of the cave and unless someone ventured inside and looked, it was bypassed and hidden for millenniums.

My work with extracting natural colours for art pieces drew me to physics, and I consulted widely with with someone that I know of, a professional physician, and have attempted to explain how colour works below, as normally an artist will launch into a treatise about how the three primary colours – red, blue and yellow – form a colour ‘wheel’.

My argument is why “wheel?” all other colours are created by mixing these three colours in certain proportions, they’ll explain. In particular, mixing equal quantities of each pair of primary colours produces the secondary colours (orange, green, and purple):

Continuing this process produces the infamous colour wheel you probably learned in school; a pretty, symmetrical, satisfying device in which each hue melds seamlessly and linearly into the next:

Unfortunately, my works hopefully prove none of this stands up to even minor scrutiny.

For example, open up your desktop printer and you’ll see something quite different:

Three colours of ink which, when combined, produce all others: cyan, magenta, and yellow. (black is included as a money-saver — black is the cheapest and most common colour; it’s cheaper to have a black cartridge than to dump ink from the other three.)

But wait! I thought the “primary” colours were red, blue, and yellow, not cyan (bluish-green), magenta (bluish-red), and yellow. So this is a different set of three colours which are “primary,” yet still generate colour wheels containing all the other colours. So what does the “primary” designation really mean?

Also it’s not as simple as saying “any three colours can produce all the others” because that’s clearly not true (by experiment). And it’s not as simple as saying “any three colours will do, they just have to be equally spaced around the colour wheel,” because yellow is common to both the painter’s and printer’s wheel, yet the other two primaries differ completely (red and blue are primary in the painter’s wheel but secondary in the printer’s wheel.)

TV’s and computers are different yet again. If you stand close to a CRT (non-flat-screen), you can see that every pixel (or “dot”) is really three tightly-packed coloured phosphors: red, green, and blue.

If you’ve done computer graphics you’ve been forced to name colours using these “redgb colour values;” true green and blue seeks automatically think “yellow” when they see #ffff00. (If it’s intuitive to you that #a33f17 is burnt orange, you are indeed a god among men. I’m looking at you, @soopa.)

This leads to yet another system of three “primary” colours generating all the others, and another colour wheel. This one is a little easier to explain — ink and paint are subtractive (adding cyan, magenta, and yellow yields black) whereas coloured light is “additive” (meaning if you blast red, green, and blue you get white):

Still, we have yet another colour wheel in which two (but not all three!) “Primaries” match those of the artist’s wheel and none match those of the printer’s wheel.

This isn’t adding up. Let’s turn to science.

Physics (compliments to my brother-in-law), makes it worse:

Physics is clear and certain. Light is a wave of energy (or a particle, but for today it’s just a wave ok?) and, like a vibrating guitar string, light waves wiggle at certain frequencies. Some of those frequencies we detect with our eyes, and the frequency determines its colour:

Now I think we’re getting somewhere! or are we?

First off, we’ve suddenly lost the notion of a “wheel.” as much as the previous colour systems have contradicted each other; at least they all agreed that hues transform smoothly and continuously, one to the next, a beautiful symmetry with neither beginning nor end.

But here we have a clear beginning (red) and end (violet). The colours in-between are continuous — and seem to generally match the order seen in the various colour wheels — but then it just terminates with violet. How does it get back to red? What about that fuchsia / magenta / purplish-reddish colour which is clearly present in every colour wheel but missing from the physical spectrum?

How can a colour be missing? Where does it come from?

But wait, we’re not done.

Another thing to resolve: opposites

Every child is taught that “the opposite of red is green” and “the opposite of blue is yellow.” But what does that mean exactly?

After all, there’s nothing in that linear physical light spectrum to indicate that any colour is “the opposite” of any other, particularly not those two pairs. and the colour wheels aren’t much help either; trying to match the “opposites” on the painter’s wheel yields an unsatisfying asymmetry where two of the primaries are opposite, and the third is opposite from a secondary:

But “opposites” are real. In the early 1800s Goethe (yes, the Goethe) noticed that red/green and blue/yellow were never perceived together, in the sense that no colour could be described as a combination of those pairs. No colour could be described as “reddish green;” if you are asked to imagine “a green with a bit of red,” nothing comes to mind. In the following 150 years, various experiments were devised to test this idea, all of which validated his observation.

There’s something to this. Something neither the wheels nor the spectrum can explain.

It was time for me to get down to the real source of colour: the ridiculous complexity of human beings.

The answers: physiology (of course).

Caveat Emptor: the following is a gross and irresponsible over-simplification of what actually happens. But it’s correct in its general thrust, and few people on earth (myself excluded) are qualified to explain with complete accuracy, so in the interest of general illumination, no pun intended, ok maybe intended just a little bit, I’m doing it anyway. So there.

Of course it starts in the eye (admittedly, I’m registered blind), where three types of cells called “cones” measure the amount of red, green, and blue light hitting the retina.

“Ah ha,” I can hear you scream, “it’s red, green, blue after all! I was right! All that time spent — nay invested — in knowing things like #001067 are the default title-bar colour in Windows 95 was well worth it!”

Hold on there.  I can prove actually “amount of red, green, and blue” is a gross simplification, as I warned. Peeping under the bonnet (just a little), the three types of cones are in fact denoted s, m, and l for “short, medium, and long” wavelengths, and actually respond to a range of wavelengths, with a certain level of response for different wavelengths, like so:

But I digress, and besides I did promise to be all gross and irresponsible, so I’ll stick with that.

So there are red, green, and blue cones. The signals from these cones don’t go straight to the brain; they first pass through a pre-processing filter, and it’s this filter that explains all the mysteries. Actually there are three filters.

Filter #1 works like this:

Explanation: the more r there is, the more positive the signal; the more g, the more negative the signal. If there’s relatively equal amounts of r and g — whether neither of both, a little of both, or a lot of both — the signal is zero.

This explains why there’s no “greenish-red.” because:

Let’s say red and green can go between 0 and 100 units of intensity. Consider the case of “full red with a little green,” where r=100 (full intensity) and g=25 (one-quarter intensity). Then separately consider the case of “strong red with no green,” where r=75 and g=0.

In both cases, filter #1 computes the same output signal: 75. But remember the brain doesn’t get the raw r and g signals — it only gets the filter’s output — so the brain cannot tell the difference between these two scenarios.

So there’s no such thing as “red with a little green” — there’s just a less intense red. The brain physically cannot see “greenish-red” because the filter removes that information.

Knowing that blue/yellow is the other opposite pair, you can probably guess what filter #2 is:

Here blue (b) is opposed with a combination of both the red and green channels. The red and green cones are stimulated either when there’s literally both red and green light (like when a css coder turns on both red and green as #ffff00 to create yellow), or when 570nm light (yellow, on the visible spectrum) stimulates both r and g cones.

Filter #3 is simple:

In short, it measures the quantity of light without regard to what hue it is. This is “how bright,” or “luminance” in colour-theory parlance.

And magenta? It comes from full red and blue with no green, activating filter #1 full-positive, filter #2 at zero. It’s not a physical wavelength of colour; it’s just a combination of outputs from two filters.

The “right” wheel, simplistically

To do this “wheel” thing properly, you have to represent the red/green and blue/yellow opposites. It’s not at all difficult, so it amazes me how rarely it’s seen or taught:

Four primary colours? Yes, why not? It’s the closest thing to the actual physiology without getting complex.

Bonus brain bender: the context / colour connection

This is just the beginning of colour theory. To give you a glimpse of how complex it gets, consider this:

When a colour is juxtaposed with other colours, we perceive it as a different colour. For example, most people will say the small square on the left is orange, whereas the one on the right is brown:

Actually, the squares are exactly the same colour! The surrounding context dictates the perceived colour, on top of all that wavelength-physiology we just did.

It gets worse, because the brain projects abstract things it knows about the natural world onto your perception of colour. For example, we know intuitively that shadows artificially darken colours, so our brains automatically account for this in our perception of those colours (it’s called “colour constancy”), for example, you know that the dark and light colours on this hot air balloon are “the same:”

But it also results in optical illusions so powerful that even when you know the trick you still can’t see it correctly. Like this: which square is darker: a or b?

In fact a and b are the same colour (#787878), but you can’t see it even when you know this. To prove it to myself I had to open this picture in an image editor and actually move one square over another to see it was the same.

Freaky.

 

Word Count: 2076

References:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_theory

www.colorsontheweb.com/Color-Theory/Color-Physics

physics.kenyon.edu/EarlyApparatus/Optics/Newtons_Color_Wheel/Newtons_Color_Wheel.html

http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/color-mixing-wheel-sick-science

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