Saturate; The Language of Colour

By Jo Phillips

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul”. This quote by Wassily Kandinsky, a prominent Russian painter and art theorist, is an appreciation for his love of colour that we see so brilliantly projected in his work. We may not recognise this in our daily grind but colour plays a vital role in our lives. How does a room painted red make you feel? Does an oceanic shade of blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Colours have a way of silently evoking certain emotions and moods and can be a powerful tool in art to subliminally send a message.

On our pursuit of contemporary artists who successfully use colour to convey their ideas, Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist is a pioneer in using colourful and sensuous video installations to create immersive environments that absorb viewers in a hyper-feminine aesthetic. Her work is a fantastic exploration of the whimsical alongside subtle undertones of exploring female subjectivity, interwoven with deeper themes of pain and innocence. Her recent exhibition Sip my Ocean – exclusive to Museum of Contemporary Art Australia – features series of her audio-visual installations and is comparable to being on a journey of discovering gender, sexuality, and the human body. With the interplay of the natural world projected across ceilings, floors, and walls, Rist delves into the notion of technology and biology being an intrinsic part of human experience. Her video art is an amalgamation of kaleidoscopic projections blended with prominent soundtracks which builds a hallucinatory and dreamlike effect. It truly is a mesmerising experience.

MCA - Pipilotti Rist - Japsen (HighRes)

We dive into explosives and firework displays to inspect the work of Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Touted as the artist who paints with explosives, he creates ‘gunpowder paintings’ by detonating large trails of it onto paper. His works are often highly-publicised spectacles that fill the atmosphere with shimmering fireworks and colourful smoke. Not limiting himself to one medium of art, his body of work is diverse in practice from drawing and installations to video and performance. His most compelling explosion event Sky Ladder in Quanzhou, China has invited worldwide attention, even becoming the central piece in the 2016 Netflix documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin MacDonald. Described by the artist as the most difficult project he has attempted, the idea behind it is to connect the earth to the universe. It is a 1650-foot-tall ladder, kept floating in the atmosphere by a giant ballon and rigged with explosives. As it lights up, it creates a breathtaking outburst of colourful smoke that ascends to the heavens. The documentary brings into light his legacy as a contemporary artist and how he is redefining the idea of what art is. It also touches upon the immense love he has for his 100-year-old grandmother, to whom Sky Ladder was dedicated to.

Sky Ladder, 2015
Realised off Huiyu Island, Quanzhou, June 15, 4:45 am (dawn)
Gunpowder, fuse, and helium balloon

Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave 2014
Realised on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, Shanghai, August 8, 5:00 pm

Aside from his explosive events, he recently had his first solo exhibition solely focused on painting in Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

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