With London Fashion Week approaching on Feb 15th, Christie’s auction house presented a Fashion/Forward evening which explored the links between art and fashion. Their Great Room, East Room, Ante Room and King Street Gallery spaces all held talks covering history, science, technology and how we see and wear colour.
Karissa St Clair, author of The Secret Lives of Colour and WGSN Head of Colour Jane Mornington Boddy gave an enlightening talk about how society’s attitudes to colour has changed over the years. In the ancient world, the colour blue was associated with barbarity. Certainly, the British Celts used a blue dye on their faces to frighten their opponents in battle. By the Middle Ages, it had become associated with the garments of the Virgin Mary so it’s meaning changed to a positive one. We are reminded that today it is used by companies that want to gain our trust – banks, Twitter, Facebook etc.
Interestingly, the colour yellow was associated with decadence in the 1890s. This became the common view, just after the dust had settled on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – and grave (he died in 1890). His yellow conveyed a different meaning all together and the discussion took an interesting turn when it was pointed out that Van Gogh saw themes and expressions of friendship in his yellow palette. However, the period after his death was known as the Yellow Nineties and newspapers of the day noted that playwright Oscar Wilde had a yellow book under his arm when arrested. Also scandal-seeking French publishers deliberately chose yellow jackets for their books to give them a visible stamp of notoriety.
Back to the modern day, and the row over the newly created blackest black hue. This Vantablack was developed by Surrey NanoSystems for use on the inside of satellite positioning systems but had artists infuriated by a ban on its use. It gets it’s dark colour (or non-colour!) by it’s absorption of 99.6% of light.