Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Every language has a word for three colors: black, white and what would you think?  Yellow, mauve, turquoise, chartreuse, magenta, grey, beige, orange, purple?   Nope,  RED.  Oh, of course, you say.

There are languages that lump all other colors into one word, something like “colorful.”

Why would we single out the color red above all others? Look at strawberries, apples, cherries.  The color red evolved in nature, in fruit specifically, simultaneously with our love of sweetness.  Ripe fruit tends to be red and sweet.  Think strawberry.  Our evolved taste buds longing for sweetness—and, therefore, red—lead us to eat the strawberry.  It’s the strawberry’s way of spreading its seeds and thereby assuring its proliferation.

But we think red is important because it satisfies our craving for sweetness. The red fruit is a source of nourishment and calories to burn and therefore is important for our survival.

It’s not that your mouth is watering when you see red in a painting.  The association is more subtle. Red is deeply connected to survival.  So, red has gravitas.

Test other colors for gravitas:

Not so much, wouldn’t you agree.





Again, this exercise in seeing is brought to you courtesy Adobe Photoshop.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.









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Yes, it’s all rectangles and squares. What an interesting challenge! Wherever you look, it’s all 90° and you think this should look stable and fixed. Not so. It’s all motion and speed. How do you make a painting consisting of right angles so lively?! Try to look away. Gotcha!

Our visual apparatus evolved to detect motion. Frogs can only see what moves. If you don’t want to be associated with frogs in your family tree, try to remember what it’s like to sit in a train while reading. It’s hard, because your eyes are attracted to the blur and motion at the window. Maybe a painting that simulates the effect of motion holds our attention for the same reason. But this painting does not illustrate motion.
Let’s look at an illustration of motion.

HorsesBeachHere we have a specific instance, a narrative of motion. Horses and riders on a beach can evoke the memory of a beach, the smell of the ocean, the energy of young men and the power of horses. Notice that all these are specific memories and as such they’re limited and limiting.
In the painting,  our experience is deeper. Without a narrative as a hook and employing a most restrained composition, it moves us to introspect on how perception itself works.  We have to ask how this is possible.  And that’s endlessly fascinating.
Painting by Maria Palacios, 30×40. Oil on canvas.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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