It was only after I had built up the main body of red that the problem of color became crucial, when the only colors that would work were yellow and blue.
– B. Newman
Blue in the fold of the mantle, ultramarine from afar, soft violet, harsh yellow, running red, disturbed raw Sienna, ochre on the edge of the door, magic emerald, smoke black…
Painting a colour. Another colour can be superimposed over the first one, or settle next to it, touching it right at the edges. Processing these choices building the painting palm by palm, foreseeing results in the progressive filling of the colour. The way of painting does not follow a pattern. I just as much start at the top as from left to right or painting little groups of adjacent panels in opposing zones within the total surface of the set. Placing a colour next to another one produces a scale: a scale of relationships between colours, in their interactions, a scale of correspondences with my gaze.
Establishing colour scales, an issue that has concerned painters throughout the history of paining in an attempt to systematise the pictorial process, does not take place without contradictions (Chevreul: “where the eye sees at the same time two contiguous colours, they will appear as dissimilar as possible, both in their optical composition and in the height of their tone”), which is evident in the intuitive preferences of many artists.
I start by choosing all the colours that the paint manufacturers provide. I lay the respective pots of paint out on my work table, grouping them together according to a possible palette of colours: I establish a scale among the colours that I intend to use first and their opposite colours, not in the optical sense or as a chromatic circle, but by subjective, intuitive associations. Black and white are next to each other, allowing swift mixtures in the correction of luminousness. Sometimes at the beginning I limit the number of colours to be used. On occasion I have chosen just two colours, painting only with black and white. The intermediate tones appear during the making of an intensity before painting, or come from the physical mixture on the surface of the painting where the degradés proliferate through the dragging of the paint. Dimensions, form, distance act in the choice of the colours. The process of painting flows irregularly cut through by moments of contemplation, in which, as a spectator, I feel the multiple chromatics present. Touching up or total repainting are equated. The process is repeated, with the moment of ending being determined in the glance of the certifying gaze.
I am dealing with a concrete problem. To make colours, forms and volumes function (“And what is good about a picture is never ideological but always factual” – G.Richter ). What dimension might a set of colours limited by the surfaces that hold them further take on in the eyes of the viewer? Might it still be possible to claim importance for the gaze? The gaze as a part of feeling? Colours and forms are not only this. Something emanates from their physical presence. The way they appear and are structured is determined in their making, a determining part of the process of painting.
The colours hover before me, shifting like clouds in a sky swift with wind. They drag themselves over each other, here fusing in and there scraping at each other. They contrast among each other; they promote unexpected games. We are speaking of Arnhein, Itten, Kandinsky, Chevreul and Goethe, to call up a handful of explanations. But something always remains to be said. The space of colours is variable and ambiguous, not explanatory or affirmative. It equally easily allows one to speak of politics as of love, as of nothing. Speaking of nothing is still a possibility, the last possibility to still communicate.
The place of communication, of contemplation, shifts. Images continue to exist beyond what they may illustrate. They establish a world with a vitality of its own, in which discussion of reality is a lesser issue. Revealing colour, reminding one of its existence, is only possible in the physical empathy of its intrinsic nature.
Pedro Calapez April, 2008