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3. Lauren Mabry, Composition of Enclosed Cylinders, red earthenware, slip.jpg

The Significance of Colour in Artworks

David Geraffy


In works of art, artists use colour to portray and describe the subject. Artists, especially painters, utilise their knowledge of colour to depict mood, light, depth, and point of view in a work of art. Colour can tell us a lot about a work of art. Bright colours can make us feel happy while darker colours can make us gloomy. There are also specific colours that remind us of different emotions. Throughout history, there have been many iterations of colour theory, which is a set of guidelines for mixing, combining, and manipulating the colour spectrum. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first colour wheel with seven colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet – in his 1704 book ‘Opticks’. In 1810, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe developed a symmetrical colour wheel with just colours (taking out indigo) that is similar to the one we generally use today. In the twentieth century, professor Albert Munsell founded the Munsell Color System after working on a series of studies identifying the elements of how humans see colours.

David Hockney


David Hockney is a British artist who is well-known particularly for his photography collages but also has a collection of brilliant paintings. Hockney was born with a condition called synaesthesia (a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway) which causes him to see colour as a cognitive response to hearing music. David Hockney’s work challenges our relationship to colour, because he perceives the world in a very different way. He once said; 'Water in swimming pools changes its look more than any other form… its colour can be man-made and its dancing rhythms reflect not only the sky but, because of its transparency, the depth of the water as well. If the water surface is almost still and there is a strong sun, then dancing lines with the colours of the spectrum appear everywhere'. The shapes Hockney created for his landscape collection are very simple, yet the combination of a variety of vibrant colours and patterns brings the artwork alive. The paintings are at times unrealistic, but it is clear what it depicted. The bright colours and simplicity somehow can remind us of a children’s drawing.

1. David Hockney, Garden, 2015.jpg

 Fig 1, David Hockney, Garden, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 183 cm.

I like how David Hockney made this painting with bright colours that he used for the painting in order to compare it to the real life. I like seeing the landscapes being featured in this painting as it is with other paintings Hockney did, especially those with bright green colour.

Mary Rose Young


Mary Rose Young is a ceramic artists who has an interest in making items using a pottery wheel. She applies the bright colour she had used earlier onto her newly thrown pots. She studied ceramics at art college in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England. Her primary interest during that time was producing sculptural pieces of pottery, which were expressive representations of everyday objects. Among her successful degree pieces was a three dimensional 'Washing Up Bowl' with saucepan handles and edges of plates protruding from a bowl of dirty water, while the first piece pictured in a magazine was a wacky ceramic Filofax (later an item in its heyday). It was only after departing from art college that Mary Rose Young became interested in throwing pieces at the wheel. She had moved into a farmhouse, which had lots of empty mantelpieces and window sills: she needed something glamorous to brighten the place up. Applying the bright colours she had used earlier onto her recently thrown pots immediately found the look she had hoped for. Needless to say her sense of enjoyment spilled over onto the shapes and designs she was producing. Her earliest designs included the rose motif which appeared to be appropriate next to her name, and the comedic, frantic chicken. The roses started to spring up in a three dimensional form on the rims of vases and on the handles of mugs. Mary Rose believed that one shouldn’t have to be continually finding bunches of fresh flowers to make a vase work; why not purchase a vase with its own bunch of permanent roses? She called the look 'Rose Encrusted'. While Mary Rose's 'Rose Design' has remained very popular, she has continually expanded her range of shapes and designs. She started to use gold lustre in 1993 with a look called Jewelled and Beaded on which her intention was to make pottery which resembled a pirate's treasure - goblets and vases encrusted with golden jewels. Gold has a become a stronger theme in her range while candlesticks, mirrors, toilets and clocks have all joined the original mugs, jugs and vases.

2.Mary Rose Young, teapots.jpg

Fig 2,  Mary Rose Young, teapots, ceramics, c.1980s.

I love seeing how Mary Rose paints pretty colours and lovely flowers on teapots along with the other ceramics she did. It’s nice to see how she plays around with colours on ceramics.

Lauren Mabry


Lauren Mabry is an American artist known for ceramic art. She is widely recognised for her bold, dynamic glazes and inventive use of material, colour, and form. Her ceramic vessels, objects, and dimensional paintings embrace experimentation to question the boundary between abstract painting, sculpture, and process art. Her works capture transformative material forces beyond our control. Her ceramic objects appear fixed in medias res, clarifying materials and objects in transition. Mabry’s works provide pathways for us to imagine the wildness of evolutions beyond our understanding of them. Her ceramic forms engage with Modernist histories of abstraction – she cites Helen Frankenthaler and Hans Hoffman as inspirations – as well as changing the field of ceramics through their painterly focus. A master of glaze techniques, Mabry’s works are constructed with these fluid materials in mind. Each form articulates pathways for colour that reinforce clay’s engagement with the earth and its gravitational pull.

Fig. 3 Lauren Mabry, Composition of Enclosed Cylinders, red earthenware, slip & glaze, 97 cm in length, 2016.

I like Lauren Mabry’s work as she uses mixed media for ceramic objects and how it makes us imagine the transformation of things beyond our understanding of them. It is also interesting to see colours used for ceramics, like the ones mixed up together.

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