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A Riff on Colour

cowparsleysmIt is the enchantment of the artist and the joy of the walker, the bright spring green and the deep azure sky. We are enriched by colour. We are captivated by colour. But is it real? Silly question says the artist. Or not so silly. Come with me.

Let’s think about our perception of colour and what it depends on. Colour does not exist by itself in the way that a tree does. Colour is perceived through an eye that carries a set of colour sensitive photoreceptors. Those who are ‘colour blind’ know this well.

The perception of colour also depends on a conscious mind that is able to interpret what it sees. We must assume that the perception of colour dies when the brain dies.

So we have the eye and the conscious mind as two dependencies determining the reality of colour. Yet there is more. Without light there is no colour. There is no colour in a darkened room and there would be no colour in the natural world if it were not for the sun.

We perceive colour through the eye, but you could equally argue that the plant world perceives colour through its own set of photoreceptors, absorbing energy to power plant growth and emitting colour related to the wavelengths of light that are not absorbed.  Such is the green of the natural world. It is the non-absorbed part of the light that falls upon the plant.

So it is that pondering our enjoyment of colour connects us to the natural world in a dynamic sense. It is real now because we are alive and the sun is shining and life is throbbing through the world. It is not necessarily real forever. For us, because one day we will die. For the earth, because we need the sun, every day, to make it real.

I think that is why I like to think about colour. It connects me to the ongoing reality of my existence as a participant in the great web of life. It is not a static thing, or a material thing. It is real and now and wonderful.


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