Like sounds, visual impressions act on us differently depending on how far away we stand, how we're feeling, where we've been and what we love among other things. We are differently abled in our aesthetic aptitude and there is a shape to our retinal receptivity. Color juxtaposition has the effect of creating in us one of a number of sensations, emotions, or other states of consciousness. Cool next to warm creates a tension, wherein one color recedes and another appears to advance.
More intense values have a greater presence than less keyed up, related colors. This is seen in the golden orange of the center mountain against the earthy red in the range behind it. Our eyes can become conflicted while seeing. A seen object , understood monolithically, is an occasion for visual ambiguity, when said object presents to us a pair of colors which seem not to occupy the same plane, such as an area of cool purple and burgundy against a rusty orange. We have to make sense though of this tense color relationship, given our cognitive commitment to the mountain's underlying geological unity. This relationship challenges a conventional idea of light and dark as white and black. Shadows are areas reflecting less light than those lit directly, but which have their own subtle light from reflected sources and through atmosphere (which isn't without color and its own effect on us) to our visual apparatus.
Squinting at an object is often associated with seeing less of it and viewing it more incompletely. The truth is that one can see certain aspects of an object more fully when squinting the eyes. Mountains with their darker sides, avoided by light's directness, when viewed through windows partially closed appear to us with the bluer quality that more fully characterizes a shadow. Our atmosphere is blue and as we gaze into thicker regions of it up into space, the color intensifies. As we look into shadows we are met with the light from those surfaces traveling through thick atmosphere that is being reflected and refracted, just like the light from the sun bouncing around in that blanket of gas on the Earth. When understood and embraced as important colored elements, shadows begin to reveal their secrets, hints of green and purple and blues. We don't treat black like the unique color it is with its own life and effects, rather we deal with it in a far too utilitarian way, valuing primarily its usefulness as something to darken other colors. The best painters use(d) black sparingly (with exceptions of course; Rembrandt, Goya, Velasquez and Manet to name a few). The skilled artist knows that shadows are created by mixing complimentary colors. Darken yellow with a bit of purple for instance, or tone down an intense red with the addition of a green, not black.
Though I've given seeing much thought and consideration here, our understanding of a painting at an analytical level is doomed to incompleteness and inadequacy. Art isn't meant for this "register." Color relationships aren't merely understood by cognition. A history of interactions with color has to be developed and nurtured. An appreciation for subtlety and nuance accompanies chronic chromatic encounters. Trial and error are invaluable experiences/tools for understanding how to develop a capacity to evoke emotions with coloration and to have one's own emotions stirred upon receiving pigmented poetry.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.