04 November 2006


It would be interesting to look at the relationship between perception, colours and culture in the architectonic context of AlzheimUr. What do colours do for people? How do they affect the spirit? In a number of references for colour-energy, red signifies vitality, courage, self confidence; orange implies happiness, confidence, resourcefulness; yellow embodies wisdom, clarity, self-esteem; green illustrates balance, love, self-control; blue expresses knowledge, health, decisiveness while indigo conveys intuition, mysticism, understanding and violet suggests beauty, creativity and inspiration. But can the question be taken a step further? Can Alzheimer patients make intuitive associations with colours; recall memories of past events, places, experiences, just as smells have different associations? Could colours of the building materials add to the list of active elements used in memory workshops? Would it be reasonable to think that a certain composition of colours can help patients to orientate when they start to wander?
The world of colours is highly complex not least because it depends on contextual factors like perception and light. They cannot stand alone by themselves. They respond to each other, create a harmony or disharmony depending on the situation against each other. They are part of nature and cultural sensitivity. Saying that one recalls Wassily Kandinsky’s ideas where he argues in Concerning the Spiritual in Art (first published in 1911) that colour is a power which directly influences the soul. Who hasn’t described colours as warm or cold, sticky or sweet, smooth or rough under certain circumstances?
Kandinsky describes colours in terms of movement and musical rhythm. He even goes so far as to say that he paints music, thus he breaks down the barrier between music and painting and isolates, in that way, pure emotion. The movement in colours was for him a horizontal one, the warm colours approaching the spectator, the cold ones retreating from him. Generally speaking, warmth or cold in a colour means an approach respectively to yellow or to blue. While green, yellow, and blue were potentially active, in grey there was no possibility of movement, because grey consisted of two colours that had no active force. For Kandinsky, yellow was the typically earthly colour. Yet, if steadily gazed at in any geometrical form, it had a disturbing influence and revealed in the colour an insistent aggressive character. This would therefore mean that an intensification of the yellow colour increased the painful shrillness of its note. Blue, on the other hand, was the typical heavenly colour. A well-balanced mixture of blue and yellow produced green. The horizontal movement ceased. The effect on the soul through the eye was therefore motionless and the mind rested. The glow of red is within itself but its deepness towards cool or warmth depends on the colour it combines with - yellow or blue. White embodied the harmony of silence, which, according to Kandinsky, works upon us negatively, like many pauses in music that break temporarily the melody. It is, however, not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities. A totally dead silence, with no possibilities, has the inner harmony of black.
One wonders if the music of the artist palette can play part in the memory game that is exercised by Alzheimer patients, not as a play of showing different colours cards but acutally in the built environment. Building materials embody true colours that can interconnect with spaces created both by the natural environment of the place and that of its architecture. Colours are not reduced to express a state of mind but could, I want to belief, equally recall the memory of picking grapes, reading under an olive trees or strolling in an orange orchard, ... That is, recalling Murcia’s tones of colours as a living culture can nurture the inner self of the patients.

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