Page 22 - Studio International - December 1969
P. 22

Colour in                                  space  and  pictorial  colour  are  virtually   environment.  Awareness  of  colour,  in  my
                                                                                          sense,  is  therefore  a  means  of  leading  one
                                                synonymous. That is to say, for the human eye
     my paintings                              colour  that  does  not  create  its  own  space.   towards the everyday realities of one's physical
                                                there  is no space without its colour;  and no
                                                                                          environment; and not, as is the case with the
                                                When you open your eyes, the texture of the   psychedelic,  of  charming  one  away  from
     Patrick Heron                              entire visual field ( which opening them reveals   physical  reality.  It  seems  to  me  that  the
                                                                                          movement of the unsubstantial rainbow lights
                                                to you)  consists of one thing; and that thing
                                               is  colour.  Variations  in  this  colour  texture   in  the psychedelic  film-show tend  mainly  to
                                                (which  sight  reveals  to  us)  are  indications   seduce  the  spectator  into  a  more  or  less
                                                that form exists:  but  colour  is  there  first,  in   hysterical  dreamworld,  while  the  fully  con­
                                               that it is the medium through which form is   scious  concentration  upon  colour  relation­
                                               communicated  visually.  And  so,  in  mani­  ships in painting, and upon the sort of spatial
                                               pulating  colour,  painting  is  organizing  the   illusion  th ey   generate,  is  an  exercise  leading
                                               very  stuff of  which  sight  or  vision  consists.   to  a  real-not  an  imagined-heightening  of
                                               That  space  and  form  can  also  exist  in  the   the senses.
                                               dark, as it were, to the scientific mind,  I am   Early  in  1957,  when  painting  my  first  hori­
                                               not denying. But it is not with abstract con­  zontal  and  vertical  colour-stripe  paintings,
                                               cepts  of  space,  on  either  a  molecular  or  an   the  reason  why  the  stripes  sufficed,  as  the
                                               interstellar scale, that the painter is concerned   formal  vehicle  of  the  colour,  was  precisely
                                                so much as with those perfectly concrete and   that  they  were  so  very  uncomplicated  as
                                                physical sensations of space which flood in all   shapes.  I  realized  that  the emptier the gen­
                                                the  time upon  the human  retina.  And these   eral  format  was,  the  more  exclusive  the
                                                are sensations of space apprehended in terms of   concentration upon the experiences of colour
                                                colour.                                   itself. With stripes  one was free  to deal  on(y
                                                Ten years  ago I  used  to feel that  I  was not   with  the interaction  between varying  quanti­
                                                'designing'  a  canvas  so  much  as  allowing   ties  of  varied  colours,  measured  as  expanses
                                                varied quantities of  colour to come to terms   or  areas.  One  was  unconscioµsly  resisting,
                                                with each other. The soft-edged colour-areas   perhaps,  being  side-tracked  at that  stage  by
                                                existed  not  so  much  in  their  own  right,  as   the more complex  interactions  which are  set
                                                formal shapes; instead, they came into being   up  along  the  frontiers  of  colour-areas  when
                                                (or  so  it  seemed)  in  order  to  accommodate   those  frontiers  are  themselves more  complex
                                                colour as such: I had the feeling that 'colour   in character than the relatively  straight lines
                                                determines the actual shapes, or areas, which   which  separated  the  bands  or  stripes  in  my
                                               balance one another ... in my painting'. Since   1957  stripe  paintings.  The  history  of  my
                                                1962,  however,  the  defining  frontiers  which   exploration  of  colour  since  195 7  is,  very
                                                divide one area of colour from the next in my   roughly, the history of the extension of one's
                                                canvases have become increasingly sharp and   investigation into more complicated situations
                                                precise,  until  today  they  are  very  tightly   involving  the  progressive  recomplication  of
                                                drawn  indeed.  Still,  the  interest  which  had   the  pictorial  format.  (I  stressed  the  need
                                                progressively  compelled  me,  over  these  past   for this 're-complication' in an article in Studio
                                                seven years, to sharpen these frontiers was not,   International for December,  1966, entitled 'The
                                                at  the  time,  a  growing-or  a  returning­  Ascendancy  of  London  in  the  Sixties'  and
                                                conscious interest in design  or format  or form   pointed out that the Americans were bogged­
                                                or  in  any  sense  in  the  shapes  which  my   down in academic minimalism.)
                                                areas  assumed;  it  was  simply  an  obsession   All sensation of colour is relative. I mean by
     Writing  about  my  painting  seven  years  ago   with  the  interaction  of  colours,  one  upon   this that it is not until there is more than one
      ('A Note on My Painting: 1962' published in   another.  The  contemplation  of  pure  colour   colour in the visual field that we can be fully
     Art  International)  I  said  that  'Colour is both   holds pleasures  too numerous to name here;   aware of either or any of the colours involved.
     the subject and the means; the form and the   in fact  there is an intense elation in allowing   If  I stand only  eighteen inches away from a
     content;  the image and the meaning,  in my   awareness  of  colour  to  flood  the  mind-and   fifteen-foot  canvas  that  is uniformly  covered
     painting today'. And becoming more didactic,   this was clear to me years before Huxley made   in a single shade of red, say, my vision being
     I went on ... 'it is also obvious that colour is   mescalin famous; personally I am not in the   entirely  monopolized  by  red  I  shall  cease
     now the on(y direction in which painting can   least interested in what is now loosely known   within a matter of seconds to beful(y conscious
      travel . . . '  Nine years before  that I  had also   as  psychedelic  colour-the  sensational  and   of that red: the redness of that red will not be
     written:  'Colour  is the  utterly  indispensable   hallucinatory  nature  of  which  couldn't  be   restored until a  fragment of  another colour is
     means  for  realizing  the  various  species  of   more  opposed  to  the  calm  actuality  of  the   allowed to intrude, setting up a reaction. It is
     pictorial  space.'  This  was  in  the  catalogue   colour I value in painting. I dislike intensely   in  this  interaction  between  differing  colours
     introduction for  the  exhibition which  I  had   the  filmy,  essentially  unsubstantial,  trans­  that our full awareness of any of them lies. So
     arranged  in  July,  1953,  at  the  Hanover   parent, veil-like revolving vapours of 'colour'   the meeting-lines between areas of colour are
     Gallery,  London,  and  which  I  had  called   now universally associated  with 'the  psyche­  utterly  crucial  to  our  apprehension  of  the
     'Space in Colour'.                         delic'. The sensation  of  space I  value is one   actual hue of those areas: the linear character
     Space in colour. To me, this is still the most   generated by plain opaque surfaces placed at   of these frontiers cannot avoid changing our
     profound  experience  which  painting  has  to   a measurable distance before  my  face:  thus,   sensation of the colour of those areas.  Hence
     offer-this is true whatever the period, idiom   the contemplation of colour I refer to is some­  a  jagged line separating  two  reds  will make
     or style-and it is unique to painting. Because   thing which heightens my accurate awareness   them cooler or hotter, pinker or more orange,
     painting  is  exclusively  concerned  with  the   of  my  own  physical  position  in  relation  to   than a smoothly looping or rippling line. The
     seen,  as  distinct  from  the  known,  pictorial   such  surfaces,  and  to  my  actual  physical   line changes the colour of the colours on either side
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