Coronadiaries: Rainbows, and diverse are their hues.

The rainbow is a symbol of gay pride, or diversity; the Rainbow Nation was Desmond Tutu’s chosen term for post-apartheid South Africa.   Now rainbows appears in window, on town signs, a message of solidarity and hope for frontline workers from dustbin crews to National Health Service staff.

Deliah, Darcy and Arthur HIcks at home in Elstead, Surrey; screen captured from The Times

Middle East Eye has asked me to review Colour, Light and Wonder in Islamic Art, from Saqi Press, to run during Ramadan.   It offers an excuse to revise colour theory from the London School of Mosaic diploma course.

The book’s author, Idries Trevathan, takes two   other works as benchmark.     And Diverse are their Hues, with a title taken from a Qu’ran quotation was published by Yale University Press in 2011;   Colour and Culture, by John Gage, from the mid 1990s.   Gage died in 2012, after a career which included teaching art history for 20 years at the University of East Anglia,  the Guardian wrote of  his book as a “magisterial” text, and a standard work of reference,  “the fruit of the better part of a lifetime’s work.”

The Russian-born painter Anastasia Russa visited with a presentation on colour theory to the mosaic class: warm and cold, value, proportion, transparency, opacity, harmonies, the importance of accent.  Emotions:  energy, passion, anger (red) calm, purity, cold, intellectual (blue), joy, creativity, expression, anxiety, gold=knowledge (yellow).    Purple could be the colour of wisdom, green, of poison, with a digital quality (green is my favourite for its associations with nature, having read a long time ago that it was the colour we most like to look on).   Orange might carry the best qualities of yellow and red.   White, in the East, was the colour of death, Anastasia proposed; in the West, black.

Our homework was: to make two colours look like one (“tricky, but interesting”) and to make one colour look like two.

In a later session with school staff we studied  colour theory applied to the art of mosaic, with reference to colour wheels, contemporary mosaic and Byzantine and Roman portraiture.    Colours don’t physically mix in a mosaic; but the further away the viewer is, the more they blend.