Spectrum – An exploration of colour

Colour, like scent, is central to humankind’s being. It functions at a subliminal level to define the way we perceive the world and the way we feel. Colour is innate to artistic practice and its power to communicate can evoke visceral responses.

Artists have experimented with colour since the first pigments were extracted out of the earth. The manufacturing of colours and their natural or synthetic makeup, be it artist’s pigments, ceramic glazes or textile dyes, has evolved over time but the fundamental emotive power of colour remains. It resonates with our senses, visually, intellectually and emotionally.

Spectrum is an exploration of colour through the NGV Collection, taking the magnificent sparkling cut-glass ceiling of the Great Hall as the inspiration for the colour palette. The exhibition is drawn from across the Collection, from antiquity to the present, and presents a broad spectrum of works across a range of media.

Josef HOFFMANN (designer), Vase, from the Gallia collection (c. 1915), Glass (uranium) © Estate of Josef Hoffmann

Josef HOFFMANN (designer), Vase, from the Gallia collection (c. 1915), Glass (uranium) © Estate of Josef Hoffmann, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Worcester porcelain (manufacturer), porcelain (soft-paste), Felton Bequest, 1938

Worcester porcelain (manufacturer), porcelain (soft-paste), Felton Bequest, 1938 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

We’ve mentioned before how much we love that our country’s top galleries are working with their collections and reimagining conceptual intentions, finding links and responses across themes. This show is a great example of this and for us, it’s the way these curations ‘open up’ new ways of seeing that excites.

This exhibition investigates the history and artistic use of twelve different colours with each of the exhibition’s showcases exploring a single colour through a selection of works chosen to illustrate the history of that colour, from its exotic origins and trade to its manufacture and symbolism across time and culture and through different lenses.

 MIALALOTAR (attributed to) Maharana Bhim Singh with Asuaji Santidas (1788) opaque watercolour and gold paint on paper 23.4 x 29.1 cm (image) 29.0 x 24.5 cm (sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

MIALALOTAR (attributed to) Maharana Bhim Singh with Asuaji Santidas (1788)
opaque watercolour and gold paint on paper 23.4 x 29.1 cm (image) 29.0 x 24.5 cm (sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Breakout installations look at artist’s paints and the raw pigments used to produce them which we find fascinating. There’s one exploring oil paint in relation to the NGV’s jewel-like fifteenth-century Flemish Virgin and Child, another exploring watercolour as the medium used in eighteenth-century Indian miniatures and yet another investigates pastels through their exquisite selection of eighteenth-century works. Displayed alongside the works are samples of pigments used to create the colours, including lapis lazuli, vermilion and Indian Yellow – an intensely-coloured pigment extracted from the urine of cows fed on mango leaves.

François BOUCHER Madame de Pompadour 1754 pastel over sanguine and light grey-blue washes 36.5 x 28.1 cm (sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Everard Studley Miller Bequest, 1965 1482-5

François BOUCHER Madame de Pompadour 1754, pastel over sanguine and light grey-blue washes, 36.5 x 28.1 cm (sheet), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

The exhibition design was brilliantly conceived by Melbourne-based designer Danielle Brustman and we are so happy it’s on til next year, fingers crossed non-Victorians like us will be able to visit before it finishes.

Visit Spectrum – An Exploration of Colour
National Gallery Victoria International
Level 2, Decorative Arts Passage
Free entry until 30 Jan 2022

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Still on colour but this time the kind you find within our natural world, we stumbled across this exquisite book by Putnam and Putnam in the NGV Design Store. It’s called Flower Colour Guide.

 Flower Colour Guide – The ultimate colour-by-colour flower reference guide - from New York's pre-eminent floral designers, Putnam and Putnam

 Flower Colour Guide – The ultimate colour-by-colour flower reference guide - from New York's pre-eminent floral designers, Putnam and Putnam

Flower Colour Guide by Putnam and Putnam

 Flower Colour Guide – The ultimate colour-by-colour flower reference guide - from New York's pre-eminent floral designers, Putnam and Putnam

 

We describe our style as opulent and romantic. Our favourite flower is therefore the classic rose, preferably in powdery shades, with a brownish, warm undertone. – PUTNAM & PUTNAM

Documenting around 400 flowers at their bloom peak, with stunning photography by New York's pre-eminent floral designers, this ultimate colour-by-colour flower reference guide includes an appendix featuring perforated pages, with tips on flower care, notes on how to prepare vessels and a list of suggested colour schemes. A great gift to give, or to keep, the book speaks to the most seasoned flower enthusiasts as well as those obsessed with the possibilities of and potential in the arrangement of flowers. We just love the pared back style, the cover and the title which is so whimsy.

Support the gallery and buy the book here or order in at your local bookstore. They need all the support they can get now!