colourium

I came to live in Bangkok in 1999. Arriving here from a cooler, temperate country, you feel the tremendous heat, then smell the thick hot air. There's a confusion of noise, colour and activity. Life is as it should be: burgeoning, colourful, fecund and chaotic.

Everything is different in the great clamour and light of Thailand. Now I understand why many artists who live in the tropics move towards more intense colours. Palettes have to respond. It is like one gigantic set of picture postcards, with bright blue skies, green trees and scattered yellow and red elements. Walls are painted in hot creamy pinks, oranges and blues. Flowers, lines of washing, streetsigns, traffic, sunsets, teeshirts are supercoloured. Yellow temple roofs and multicoloured stupas stick out, and below are monks in orange near red and gold temple doors. When you stand in the sun, the shadows become patches of black and dark purple. Inside the shadows, your eyes adjust to the different richnesses of the colours, while beyond the light dazzles in contrast. Everything is visually new and fresh in this light.

Without light, colours are invisible! Colours can be strident in bright light, in half light they are muted. Wild colour schemes appear that are fantastic adaptations to the brilliant tropical sunlight. In hundreds of different ways, plants and animals have evolved colour schemes that attract, seduce or warn: orange against blue, red against green, yellow against black, or gorgeous movements of one colour on scales, feathers, leaves and petals. Under the tropical light, colour moves in spectacular gradations in ripening fruit and budding flowers, in the greens, reds and blues of the setting and rising sun, and in fields of rice.

It is fascinating as an artist to take colour as something abstract that fills and sets a shape apart from other shapes. When we look in any direction, we can see an arrangement of colour-filled shapes that make up a view. A print or a painting is an artist's interpretation of that set of shapes on a flat piece of paper. From birth, we start learning and absorbing information from our surroundings, and colours help define the roles of the objects we see and the shapes around us. Colours highlight our visual world and we become used to the range of colours available to us.  My world as a child in England I recall as dim and half-lit.

In Thailand, nature has the upper hand. Life is everywhere. People mill endlessly on the streets, dogs stake tiny territories, and birds, butterflies and lizards dart at the corners of your vision. It's as if no season is dormant. All around us something is alive, bursting from an endless wellspring of energy.

coloured lizard