Friday, January 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW ~ Josef Albers / Interaction of Colour

Many many years ago, before I went to Art College in the year bluuuuuure. Like all prospective art students from the 1960's onwards. along with your letter of acceptance came a quite hefty book list. On this were -a biography of Paul Klee, Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, Marshall McLuhan's The Guttenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media, Vance Packard's Hidden Persuaders, these are just a few that I remember. I had to order them through the local W H Smith, as there wasn't really an art book selection in Scunthorpe. Some of these books are, to be frank quite obscure. One of the most obscure, because it was out of print at the time, was Josef Alber's / Interaction of Colour. It has always been a rather expensive book to buy because of the number of high spec colour prints it contains. I may have just decided I'd get it later, and never did until recently. My revisting of early artistic enthusiasms stimulated a renewed interest in colour theory, and finally I bought a copy of Interaction of Colour last year.

Albers was, for a time, part of the faculty of the Bahaus, along with Klee and Kandinsky, both of whom wrote their own books exploringt the creative process and the use of colour.  Klee and Kandinsky's books, though influential, are not particularly analytical and are primarily concerned with how to liberate a freer form of creative expression. In comparison Albers approach is to provide practical experiential and systematic ways for students to discover for themselves how colours relate. Relationships of colours being never so fixed that they comform to a strict series of rules, its to do with quality or quantity of colour. A colours behaviour is dependent on what conditions you place it in. Here he describes how he sees the teacher's role:~

" In the end, teaching is a matter not of method but of heart. Therefore, the most decisive factor is the teacher's personality. Their enthusiastic concern with the student's growth counts more than how much he knows. It is well known that 'the teacher is always right,' but rarely does this fact elicit respect or sympathy; even less often does it prove competence and authority."

"But the teacher actually is right and always will gain confidence when he admits that he does not know, that he cannot decide, and as it often is with colour, that he is unable to make a choice or give advice."

"Besides, good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers." 

The book is divided into two sections. The first section consisting of eleven short chapters explaining specific aspects of colour relationship and setting practical exercises to do. The second section giving a series of example pages that are companions to those earlier chapters. These demonstrate the effects referred to, and give a better visual sense for what he is describing.  Albers says that his book isn't concerned with encouraging self-expression but providing precise methods for self-exploration and discovery. This style of delivery can present itself as being a bit cold, dry and matter of fact. Nonetheless his colour exercises are very effective, being developed over many years of hands on teaching xperience in Germany and the US. In a sense The Interaction of Colour more readily resembles an artistic version of a 'car manual' than 'a good read.' or a visual feast.

Its clear once you start reading it, just how influential this book has been. Over its fifty years of publication the theoretical underpinning and the simple practicality of its exercises mean its been plundered as a teaching resource for Primary Schools through to BA Art Degree Courses. I've certainly learnt quite a bit I didn't know, its clarified things I knew from experience but never uindestood why, and explained why somethings I've tried would never have worked ~ it was the Weber-Fechner Law ~  apparently! Some of Albers more complex explanations did I'm afraid lose me, I needed more specific visual reference in order to understand what he was talking about.  Nonetheless its still quite a special book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 PROJECTS ~ Completed Commission

Inbetween al the other creative things I get drawn into doing for trhe Sangha, I've been working on this private commision for Lester Robinson since the exhibtion in October. I finally finished it and gave it to him yesterdays. My first satisfied patron. here's a photo of the completed thing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


'The production of too many useful things
results in too many useless people'


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

DIARY 122 ~ The Marking of Sorrows

'Understanding the cause of sorrow robs sorrow of its sting' *

There are days, thankfully not that frequent, when a dank dungeon of despair quietly settles itself around my mind, shutting me off temporarily from the pleasures of the world, friends or partner. 'Nothing is worth making an effort, its all futile, so why bother?' It can be hard to break out of, and even harder for others to break into. Like all sorrows it bears universally recognisable characteristics, but has particular quirks personal to me attached to it like limpets. Sorrows, being so closely felt, can by virtue of their proximity feel distinct and unique to us. We reform our sorrows in our own image. Saying 'I have never felt this way before' and lay our head down upon the pillow of sorrow. Sorrows dress up in unfamiliar clothing to make them appear new, but they aren't, which explains why they can catch one unaware. They bear common antecedents and are really old old friends. The conditions causing them to arise may alter, but one component cause remains often doggedly the same, myself and the mental/emotional responses I have towards them.

Over the years I've understood the causes and conditions that summon these self- imprisoning feelings. I've named those demons, given them names of cartoon characters, burnt confessions of my unskilfulness, chanted purification mantras and done long long rituals, all in order to shrink the deadly seriousness I habitually give to them. These approaches worked to an extent, they have over time adjusted how I perceive these outward manifestations of what is a more deeply embedded view. That view, by virtue of it being deeply embedded, has proved more tricky to get a handle on, let alone understand.  When you touch upon such areas, words and phrases swim around attempting to settle on and define them. Mostly they don't, and only designate the emotional space they occupy. They emerge as catch all phrases like poor self-view, that lack a specific history of any personal distinction.

These deep seated views, often have their foundations before self-conscious memory. Originating before individual history begins, when our sense of our selves is not fully switched on, all that is remembered are raw unfiltered emotions. These days I think they say this is before two years old. Judged from a karmic perspective these might even go beyond this present life and times. So if we are looking to mark out verifiable causes for all our sorrows, we probably wont find them. They are more than likely unnameable, which is why they are still able to provide an unexpected sting. A lot of the pain we experience around our sorrows is not the basic feeling, but our emotional responses to the basic feeling. Rubbing salt into our own wounds. By weakening these responses, the sharpness and intensity of the sting can be eased.

Then we are left with the basic feeling. Even as we move away from overreacting to it, we are also weakening the over identification we have with it. What drives any sorrow deeper into us is the essentially self focused preoccupation that burns with acidity until it corrupts the core of who we are. The more we dwell on it hoping to find its source, the worse it apparently gets. If we catch this whilst its happening, then we may be able to stand back from it, creating the distance to find a more helpful viewpoint. Sorrows can then settle into a broader, less self focused perspective. Instead of identifying with ourselves we identify that we share this with everyone, and this can have an unexpected neutralising effect. By this sorrows lose their uniqueness, and can no longer sting us in quite the same way again.

* Annie Besant.

QUOTATION MARKS 46 ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are not human beings
having a spiritual experience.

We are spiritual beings
having a human experience.


Friday, January 03, 2014

QUOTATION MARKS 45 ~ Annie Besant

"The soul of the devotee will gladly recognise all human existence and love and admire that excellence wherever it is.

Devotees may be hero~worshippers, not in seeing no fault in admired ones, but in seeing the good in them and loving that, and letting recognition of the good overbear criticism of faults.

Devotees love and serve those they admire for what they are, and look with charity at their faults."

From The Spiritual Life, Ch 4, Devotion & the Spiritual Life.