August 14, 2014
I believe that I am drawn to you because of our deep roots in passion.
My passions motivate me to create, and keep a constant smile on my face.
I think that I am continually drawn to you because you fuel that....
I see red everywhere, a color that connects us as humans and in the arts. With any lineage, the past is rich with stories, experiences and archives, that make what we see today possible. A lineage that is recognized by civilizations all over the world throughout time. Red has continued to bind us all through emotional, psychological, physical effects. We all have felt these associations, passion, love, action, warning, anger, boldness and even increased heart rate and blood pressure. (Williams).
Alchemy has always been a part of the evolution of the pigment red. Finding a catalyst to apply ground pigment started the tincture that in the 19th century expanded to include 277 different shades of red. Egyptians in 2500 BC developed the chemical technology to create specific red pigments using a catalyst to transport the pigment, with the production of these pigments being just as important as the pigment itself, a ceremonial action of creating the pigment. Greek artists used red pigment on statuary and paintings but it was the Romans that utilized the alchemy of red pigment not only for paintings but to line their tubs with Cinnabar and to dye fabrics for the wealthy and privileged. (Douma).
The pigment of red carried lots of weight in the economy of the Renaissance and the continual discovery of newer shades of red that set the rest of civilization up for a broader spectrum of red. The comparison of Reds has allowed for a clearer understanding of how these reds originated and where some have ended. Red Ochre and Cadmium Red share a lineage that breaks apart into the artificial versus natural pigments in the 1800’s. This story created a new world of pigments and a new world of red. A world that I am trying to decipher in my paintings. (Ball, Butler).
The human eye can detect 277 different shades of the color red, within that number are five reds that originated on earth as a natural substance used as a pigment. Red Lake, Red Madder, Red Lead, Vermillion and Red Ochre are what I like to call the “Five Original Reds”, from these original pigments, the need and evolution of 277 different shades of Red developed through chemical and industrial revolution of the 19th century. Red lake, also known as cochineal lake, crimson lake or kermes lake. Red lake is from the kermes insect or more widely derived from the cochineal insect from Central and South America. Red madder is the extract from the madder plant roots, artificially known as Alizarin, Red madder is traditionally used for glazing throughout art history. Red Lead, also called Minium, was used traditionally in manuscripts of the Byzantine era. Vermillion (cadmium red) and Red Ochre are the last of the “Five Original Reds” and the two that I would like to expand upon further. The story of each of these reds and the experience that I have encountered through and with them have surfaced a new light on artificial versus natural in the world of red and in me. (Ball, Butler, Finlay).
R E D O C H R E
Red ochre has been found in art of majority of the civilizations on Earth. As a natural resource still in existence today, Red ochre has become the foundation on which all other shades run parallel to. As the oldest paint on the palette, Red ochres history throughout civilization links us all. It can be found all over the world and is still a resource for pigment in the art world. Red ochre was the key red in Renaissance painting and before that it was one of the four colors that most early civilizations used. Aboriginal art in Australia is filled with Red ochre as the source is close, convenient and ceremonial to Aboriginal tribes. Used as part of the native black, yellow, white and red palette, Red ochre was used thousands of years ago and is still used today in contemporary art. There are a tremendous amount of native civilizations that use Red ochre today and in history, but one that I share my genealogy with is the Ojibwe tribe specifically in northern Minnesota. (Douma and Finlay).
Pictographs line the cliffs in northern Minnesota, as you canoe down a stream, you will find the Muzzinabikon, Red ochre pictographs guiding you. Muzzinabikon are abstract marking and/or shapes that line the rock cliffs. The markings are usually of a ceremonial living creature such as moose and raven. Very rarely will you see a human depicted in a Muzzinabikon, if there was, it was in direct reference with the gods and spirits. The artist of these raw, earthly rock art were the Medicine Man of the tribe. They would open their dreams for Great Spirit to direct them to a specific site and there the animal depicted would be revealed. When the Medicine Man would awaken he would put himself into a trance and perform the ceremony of Muzzinabikon. During specific ceremonies other tribe members could participate to ask for health, strength and successful hunting. Onamin or Wunnamin is the pigment that mixed for Muzzinabikon, which is ground red ochre and bear fat. The bear fat allowed for the pigment to become one with the rock. The permanency was crucial so Great Spirit could always see the tribes message and requests.
Unlike the Aboriginal people of Australia, the Ojibwe people have stopped performing these ceremonies as the last dated Muzzinabikon was 150 years ago. The red ochre is still there and the rock cliffs too, but the tradition of the act of the Muzzinabikon is no longer.
The color Red still plays a vital role in the Ojibwe traditions. Red is synonymous with the cardinal direction south or Zhaawanong. It is believed that while your living in the south years of your being, which is your teenage years, a quandary stage you answer the questions of Who am I? Where do I come from? Red/south is also a reminder to look after your spirits, to develop your relationship with your guides and start listening to the inner voice to lay down your lives journey. South also is direction of earth and the materials in which were used. There is not a coincidence that the Red ochre used for the Muzzinabikon was from the Red/south direction. It emphasized the relationship with earth and the with the guides in which were brought to the surface. All of these teachings were orally passed on to me by my uncle and grandfather.
Even though Red ochre is available all over the world naturally, there are still synthetic variations of this pigment. As the oldest pigment to be documented in art history Red ochre has seen the trends and the evolutions of the color palette and have stayed as the baseline in the world of Red. There is an immediate sensation of worldliness and antiquity to the color that also emanates a rich earth tone. Through my own personal experience with the pigment it is stable and the most opaque of the reds, grounding each composition I use it. Pulling the viewer to the earth just as the Ojibwe have done with their ceremonial Muzzinabikon.
C A D M I U M R E D
As Red ochre has the longest and most in depth lineage, Cadmium Red is one of the shorter lifespans but a deep story to tell, with lots of chemical engineering and development to become the color that we use today.
Cadmium sulfide the ingredient of cadmium red was introduced in the 19th century as a yellow pigment. It was found later that if replaced some sulfur with selenium and heated it would become a shade of red. Cadmium red did not become part of commercial pigment market until 1919, it was too expensive and cadmium metal was and is scarce. Cadmium is a heavy metal that is not toxic and presented no harm to painters. So even though the metal was scarce it was desirable for painters but not the environment. As cadmium red became more available artists started to incorporate it into their palettes. Vermillion was used until Matisse painted The Red Studio using dominantly cadmium red and changed how red was viewed and how it brought color to the forefront.
(Ball, Finlay, MoMA, Elderfield).
"Where I got the color red—to be sure, I just don't know,"
"I find that all these things . . . only become what they are to me when I see them together with the color red."
The Red Studio was painted in 1911, before cadmium red was exposed on the market. So the shock of this pigment and amount of it used and how it was applied to create the negative space of the studio was intense to the art community. At the time Cinnabar or Vermillion was the contemporary red to use in painting. Gaining some insight on the color from the Impressionists, Matisse is said to have tried to persuade Renoir to switch from Cinnabar. This exuberant color portrayed in a painting that allows color to the forefront. John Russell, the critic said "A crucial moment in the history of painting. Color is on top, and making the most of it." I tend to use Cadmium red a lot in my paintings as Matisse used it in The Studio. It falls to the forefront of my composition and sometimes the subject of the painting. (MoMA, Edlerfield). Its vibrancy isn’t acidic, its refreshing yet grounding. Which to me is exactly how Matisse showcases Cadmium red. I find this specific red represents the typical associations with red, anger, passion, warning etc. yet has a great ability to be the subject of paintings. With its lineage in painting being fresher than red ochre it seems to be a trendier and modern version of red ochre.
D E A R R E D
Red ochre and cadmium red were two of the eight reds that I used in my daily Dear Red journal entries as I traveled Europe in 2014. Assigning the internal(myself) and the external
(a destination in Europe) a shade of red, I wanted to see what colors were represented where. Each location was represented by a red and the second red was how I was effected by it. There were three entries from the journal that had red ochre and cadmium red as the daily colors. Below are those excerpts:
August 26th, 2014
Poros Island, Greece
Me: cad red
Greece: red ochre
Went into Poros today and saw that you are sparse, bright, bold red, but you take shape in every single terra-cotta roof. Terra-cotta seems to be a cousin to you. On all the white washed buildings and houses is a great terra-cotta roof. The natural red provided is used in necessity and is brilliantly noticeable against the mountain. I did find some graffiti that was red. Its like red is too contemporary of Greece. The antiquity of the color i in a raw format, used for practical purposes. The hibiscus must have floored early Greeks, the brilliance of its hue.
September 12, 2014
Me: cad red hue
Italy: red ochre
The brick used to construct the 380 stairs up to Corniglia was in varying shades of red, as newer developments hit the market in constructional supplies so does the shade of red. Some terra-cotta an some earthy sandstone, these bricks control the flow to the village. They are stepped on and used daily y thousands of people and tell a story. The red chili plants and beautiful red potted flowers were the spice that the cooler colored walkway needed. The practicality and the simple usage of this color really has been more expressed in Corniglia than any other village.
September 24, 2014
Me: red ochre
Italy: cad red
AH-HA moment! Everything just clicked for me today! Through this entire journey, I've been trying to allow my side of red come out, mostly my linkage to my native heritage. Tonight as I was looking through old images I cam across some google images of Ojibwe art. It’s the same! I couldn’t figure out why I was drawing this in Riomaggiore and then I started painting in a totally new way, flat and solid shapes of red with outline, now I know! The evolution of all of this blows my mind. I can’t believe that this was creating itself in the coinciding of this trip. Everything happens for a reason and Im just floored all this time I was “trying’ to be a native artist or desperately trying to bring in that influence, to force it. But it happened because it was suppose to happen. So thank you red for limiting my palette and for being my favorite color and helping me create the understanding of how this happened! WOWZA!
Red ochre and cadmium red are both red, but the the lineage behind them separates them into parallels. The natural pigment, Red ochre has achieved its milestones through every art period documented and still continues to be a part of contemporary art. Cadmium red the artificial pigment that recently hit the color scene has been marked by one painting.
The natural versus the artificial to me is the intrigue. With my series “Contained”, I tried to visualize the timeline of the natural versus the artificial. The amount of time Red ochre (natural pigment, in the series its red wine) has been incorporated into art compared to the artificial. The vast fields of color naturally formed by my hand and the intentional line of acrylic paint (artificial pigment) to contain it, to take over. Containing the natural seemed like the instinctual action to take as the artificial seems easier to control. In a timeline, the natural pigment physically takes up more space on the canvas but also in time. As the artificial is painted on that line creates a depth of time that is a fraction of the natural. These two reds have become representational of me.
With the experiences described above with Red, and a deeper look into my own life, Red is me and always has been me. Red ochre is my natural. My genetic disposition of being Ojibwe. Like red ochre, this heritage has been passed along and rooted deeper into my being. This natural state is the intuition in which I was recently introduced to and started having conversation with. Opening my dreams for the Muzzinabikon that I will paint on the rock cliff.
Just as I am red ochre I am cadmium red, the artificial, the person I have created outside my genetic disposition. Seeing cadmium red as the modern struggle to achieve and constantly be amongst the social norms. This does not have a negative connotation at all, as the artificial is the product of our decision and experiences. This vibrant color exudes passion and that is one thing that I hope to reflect to others, is my desire of passion. Matisse used this color to define other objects in his painting, that is how the cadmium red is portrayed in my life. Using the artificial to allow other natural things to come to the surface.
For along time these reds have run parallel, or contained one another, never mixing. Its an inner struggle of what I want to be and who I truly am. This battle for balance between our natural and artificial self. Allowing these to mix and create their own boundaries seems to be logical next step. It’s the feeling of subconsciously knowing who you are, but allowing that to be effected by the artificial tendencies and control we constantly try to achieve, letting go and surrendering to the natural interaction of these reds.
277 different shades of red are a lot to see, narrowing those down to two, red ocher and cadmium red, have shown me the relationship between artificial versus natural. The story of the pigments throughout history and my personal envelopment into the world of red brings a story to that I feel is worth sharing. As the these two reds mix, what will happen? Will their stories collide and start a new chapter in the world of red?
Ball, Phillip. Bright Earth; Art and the Invention of Color. University of Chicago Press. 2003. Print.
Bright Earth gives an overview of the chemical makeup of natures pigments, how they have evolved from the beginning of civilization and how artists have influenced the path in which these pigments followed. Bridging science, history and art history, Balls’ research on the industrial revolution and the effects on pigments is critical to my journey of comparing the artificial versus the natural pigments.
Ball, Philip. “Color in Nature.” Natural History March 2002: 64. print.
Knowing the basics of how we see color in nature helps to explain where we are in the spectrum of seeing various shades of red. Ball describes how light and optics are the crucial ingredients in color detection. Understanding how the eye sees and how perception and anatomy contribute highly to our vision of color.
Ball, Philip. “The making of Cezanne’s palette.” Helix 2001: X(2). print.
Ball’s interpretation of Cezanne’s ability to mix pigments and the how he utilized the new modern day paints that were slowly trickling out is incredible in describing the issues of an artist mixing their own paints and the preferences in which they had. Understanding an artists usage of pigments and colors helps me see where the color red fall in history and how it was used.
Ball, Philip. “Alchemy in the Colours of the Renaissance.” UCL Chemistry department. 2002. Print.
Ball brings to the surface of alchemist and artist as the same. The evolution of pigments through the Renaissance and specifically the evolution of Vermillion through the ages. As an important facet in my paper, the history of Vermillion or Cadmium red needs to be clear and Ball goes into greater detail than in Bright Earth on the alchemist side of creating the pigment.
Butler Greenfield, Amy. A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for Color of Desire. Harper Perennial. 2006. Print
Amy Butler Greenfield enlivens the story of the pigment red throughout the history of time. Telling the riveting journey of Cochineal to Europe from South America and the influence that money, power and chemical evolution had on the evolution of the pigment red through Europe. Her understanding of how red has become a long lasting entity in every civilization and the importance that it has. The crucial information of red that Greenfield surfaces is crucial in the placement of each red pigment on a time line to decipher the lineage of red.
Douma, Michael, curator. Pigments through the Ages. 2008. Institute for Dynamic Educational Development. September 6, 2014. http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments
Douma provides a basic, organized timeline of the pigments through the ages. He achieves the categorical research that I hope to provide with the specifically the color red. The blend of technical, scientific, art and societal information makes this an easy go to for the basics of all pigments.
Elderfield, John, Curator Emeritus. MoMA Audio: Collection. 2008. MoMA The Collection. January 4, 2015. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=78389
A curators view on the painting being analyzed is a crucial element to being able to see and read clearly the work. Having Elderfields comments makes the connection between myself and cadmium red even more noticeable and easier to articulate.
Finlay, Victoria. Color: A Natural History of the Palette. Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2003. Print.
Describing the ‘paintbox’ of pigments through the ages, Victoria Finlay gives a general outline of the development of each color of the spectrum. Guiding us through her personal experience of finding the lineage of each pigment. Finlay’s travels and experiences and constant research brings a personal narrative to the documentation. I hope to achieve her ability to maintain the facts with a personal twist that keeps readers engaged, as I was.
Hess, Thomas. Barnett Newman. Museum of Modern Art; distributed by New York Graphic Society. Greenwich, Conn. 1971. Print.
As an acclaimed color field artist, Barnett Newman’s approach to color and the space in which it represents is also critical to my own work and how I execute color in a composition. Similar to Mark Rothko’s process, I look to both of these artists for a similar thought process and similar personal backgrounds to gain perspective in my own work and what I would like to do in the future.
The Museum of Modern Art, Gallery Label Text. MoMA The Collection. 2015. January 4, 2015.
The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 77. January 4, 2015. MoMA The Collection. January 4, 2015. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=78389
As a source that I use for modern art today, MoMA contributes the insight from todays perceptions which in turn help in making distinguishing decisions about my work. Seeing where I fit in the contemporary art world and how I fall next to Matisse in his relationship with cadmium red.
Williams, Shirley, curator and artist. Color Wheel Artist. 2008. August 12, 2014. http://www.color-wheel-artist.com/color-meanings.html
As another artist focused on color, it is key to research other artists interpretations of color and specifically the meaning. Her research and experience, made her information sing true and reputable as it syncs with all the other information that I have experienced with the color red, whether directly related to this text or not.