Ilona Keserü: COLOUR-SPACE (1977)
In 1972 I made an attempt in one of my paintings to present all the colours I could mix from the three primary oil pigments. Green, blue, purple, orange and yellow gradually merged as each colour approached the other cautiously via certain colour shades and variant fields. This resulted in some undesirable clashes within the painting. What could I use as a neutral surface between any two colours? Black, white or grey? In this particular picture white already played a different role, while black or grey seemed inappropriate. It turned out that there was another colour which could perform this balancing act between two confronting colour fields. A pale ochreous-pinkish shade: the colour of our skin, to which our eyes have become so accustomed that we hardly notice it anymore.
This was a great revelation. I had discovered the human colour, which is capable of conveying simultaneously both an unbelievable lightness and a confusing mysteriousness, simply because it has been consciously conditioned in us, and because of its familiar and evanescent nature. I started using it, and I painted a series of paintings in order to explore its potential.
What would a human-coloured space look like? Architecture and drapes in human colour? A complete stage? The figure of a naked human within this space would only appear as movement projecting a shadow.
In 1974 I covered the acting space of the “M-A-D-Á-C-H” (Theatre number 25) with canvases dyed this shade, wrapping the floor and the walls to produce an intimate space. The actors’ costumes were “dipped” clothes whose hues began from raw white at the top and gradually faded into dark brown towards the bottom. The carpet used for the performance titled Madness or Other (in Kaposvár Theatre) was of the same colour. Across this monochrome surface, the scenery and the costumes set all the colours of the rainbow in motion. The only exception was one of the main characters, a teenage boy, whose costume was the same colour as the floor. He was dressed from tip to toe in the colour of naked skin.
In 1975, when the offices, dressing rooms, service rooms and stairways of the theatre in Kaposvár were repainted, they used the sample of human colour I gave them, and as they ran out of paint the painters kept mixing new amounts. The result was that each floor and stairway turned out a slightly different shade of the same colour. We held a run-through in one of the rooms with some twenty-five people sitting around in a circle by the walls. As I watched their faces, the similarity between their own colour and the background meant that the changes in their facial expressions gradually became easier to observe. The details of their faces could be made out extremely clearly.
It feels good to be in a room where the walls are painted in human colour. The sight itself creates a feeling of warmth, it calms you and helps you to concentrate.
In my painting titled “From the World 1”, which consists of fourteen individual pieces each measuring 90x48cm, members of the colour wheel interact with the human colours that stretch along beside them. This work (from 1975) is a planar painting, but it has neither end nor beginning, so no matter which piece we start with, the motif will always come full circle.
I am planning to produce a large-scale version of it in a round room, where the floor, the walls and the ceiling will all form one contiguous painted surface. The spectacle will envelop the viewer from all sides.
Let me tell you about one version of this theme. A large strip of chemically dyed canvas is stretched across the space in a circular form, with an opening on one side, to let people in. It is 3 metres high with a diameter of about 7 metres. The translucent colour fields are lit from inside the circle and there is enough space between the canvas and the walls of the room to enable people to walk around it and look at it from the outside as well.
CREATING SPACE, FORMING OBJECTS
A series of chamber exhibitions in the banquet hall of the Museum of Applied Arts
COLOUR-SPACE is on view between 16th December 1977 and 8th January 1978
Soundscape by László Vidovszky