Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

"After Albers" - presented at Kaleidoscope: New Perspectives on the Humanities

Carinna Parraman
Name of conference:Kaleidoscope: New Perspectives on the Humanities
Place: University of Warwick, UK
Date: 28-29 May 2011
URL Links: Conference Website and Programme

Carinna Parraman presented her paper “After Albers” as part of the Perceiving – Colour and the Visual Arts panel, at Kaleidoscope. This panel saught to answer several questions: What is the significance of colour for the visual arts? How do painterly perceptions of colour challenge and (re)conceptualise notions of colour?

In colour studies there is a difference between the physical wavelength of colour as proposed by Newton, and the perceptual relationship of colour as described by Goethe. Newton‘s experiments in Opticks (1704), demonstrated the transition from early history to new developments in scientific enquiry, the measurement and the physical properties of light (colours of the rainbow), and which still has an impact on how we think about and describe colour today. Goethe‘s Farbenlehre (1808) demonstrated a keen interest in colour perception and the psychological and artistic attributes of colour appearance; he begins to develop ideas towards bridging the gap between art and science. French chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul‘s experiments with combinations of coloured and woven threads assisted in developing his theories on simultaneous contrast. Albers, inspired by Goethe and Chevreul developed a teaching curriculum that has inspired and educated many art students of the twentieth century. Nearly half a century later, the colour studies by Josef Albers can still be considered as a challenge to the understanding and communication of colour appearance. Colour perception in art, design, science and technology remains an issue in how we measure, describe, identify common terms, and understand the complex relationships and illusory nature of colour. In his portfolio of screenprints and supporting book, the ―Interaction of Colour‖ Albers provides a series of carefully executed colour plates, as a teaching aid for art students. The paper will discuss key challenges in the colour studies by Albers, his relationship and understanding of other colour theorists and practitioners: Chevreul, Goethe, Wittgenstein, Itten, Weber and Fechner, Bezold.