RUBY: The Power of Red

By Leah Sinclair


Artists tend to have a strong connection with particular colours. One colour which can evoke vast emotional and psychological connections is Red. From artists Anselm Kiefer and Mark Rothko, to Kandinsky and Henri Matisse, the power of red and it’s visual history has been explored through some of the greatest artists of all time.

One artist who resonates with this relationship with red, is Dove Drury, who has explored the meaning of red as an artist, and a human being.

Red has multitudes of meaning woven through its skin. It exists as a spectrum of states that are aggressive, earthen, loving, romantic, energetic and diabolical. It’s a color that is open, and emotionally projects itself outward, commanding presence with an assertive declaration. We are all born from redness, within the womb. We emerge from blood and develop into tissues, organs and bones, and scream our bodies alive as we are birthed from our mothers. Red is life! Red has been utilized in human expression from the beginning of time, from those who marked their walls with symbols of the animals they hunted.

The celebration of color is the celebration of life, and through the splashes of pigments and paints, I cultivate a greater awareness of myself and the world around me. Already in my life, I am privileged to have witnessed many teachers, and  as I paint away, I am mesmerised by the redness and the teachers who mastered the power of this colour before me.

Art making is a reflection of myself. It is a mirror and a hammer, a teacher which I learn and grow from, and can let go of all that does not serve to connect me with my higher power. The color red in my work is an affirmation of the energetic and frenetic power of love. It has become symbolic of the lust for life, happily gnarled with a flushed face. It is an ecstatic state that gives itself over to the dance, to the light, to divine passion and chaos. It vibrates, and hollers, and sings and lets itself exist tenderly in the present moment.

Henri Matisse’s ‘Red Interior. Still life on a Blue Table’

I am a humble student of Henri Matisse. He seems to cut away the complications of concepts, and evokes only the essential and vivid aspects of forms and colors, inventing and deconstructing wherever he pleases. Matisse’s ‘Red Interior. Still life on a Blue Table’ is so lush, with its focus on space and pattern rather than formal perspective. Our rationalizing minds can try to find the reality, but why bother when one can be dazzled by the manic ruby bolts that strike across the painting. I can just imagine Matisse working through the composition, balancing the space somewhere between solidified and floating.

Rothko and the abstract expressionists had a lot to thank Matisse for his pictorial deconstruction of space. Apparently Rothko cried while looking at Matisse’s “The Red Studio.” I get such a thrill hearing about these encounters, the creation and viewing of art can evoke something so vast, beyond words and logic and reason, conjuring sensations of connectivity. It is something greater than ourselves, mystical and powerful, without name and without limitations. Rothko utilized Matisse’s paintings as a muse to create his own oeuvre of mystical art. Looking at Rothko’s paintings is like looking into the ‘white light,’ as it has escaped the gravities of perspective, and gracefully exists on its own heavenly plane. No more representation, no more objects, no more still lives, no more figurative gestures – just space and emotional compositions of colour.

The role of the artist is to channel these higher powers. We use our flesh and bodies, our paints and our voices to bring the spiritual into form. There is all this flesh we carry around, all this red goo – murky juices, vessels, passageways and sticky constellations. Patterns all buzzing and popping inside us. Anish Kapoor’s “My Red Homeland” speaks to this micro/macro relationship to the meat of our bodies. I got to experience this piece at the Contemporary Museum in Sydney, and upon entering, the immediate smell of wax filled my head, as an enormous circular mound of churning gunk was slowly pushed by a centrally fixed arm. This is what’s happening inside us all right now, these pulpy oscillations. You can go towards a state of nihilistic imagery, filled with carnage and body parts,chaos and war, but  I optimistically lean into gratitude and curious fascination. I am this complex, meaty machine, and yet so much more. All filled and powered by the love of red.


Words by Dove Druy


Check out our article ‘Fast Art,’ in the latest issue of .Cent Magazine

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