City and Colour

Yesterday I told you about how I fell in love with Mike Kelley’s miniature city the moment I saw it, I even wanted to live there. Will it ever be possible to live in a translucent resin city? Well, that might be something I regret the first morning when I go to take a shower, or possibly when I have to watch others doing the same. However there are places in the real world where colour does rule, and in the past week I’ve seen a few of them on blogs and on my facebook feed, so I thought I’d round them up for you.

First off, a timely Olympic salute from Plenty of Colour, finds London’s Riverbank Arena for field hockey embracing the limitless possibilites of artificial turf. Instead of pretend grass green, they’re using a cerulean blue and a hot pink. It’s generating buzz from the media, and the decision was not a purely aesthetic one (unlike my life where I make all purchase decisions based primarily on colour) these colours were chosen to be easier for spectators to process. 

Here’s the lovely painted house of Katwise, a fabric artist in New York state. She took a shabby white house and transformed it into a piece of colourful art. She chronicles the whole process on her website, including the day she walked into the paint store and said “Give me one of everything!” She’s truly an artist living her aesthetic in all aspects of her life. That reminds me, sometime I’ll have to give you a tour of my house where colour rules as well, although not this vibrantly.

Finally in Taipei, as part of Very Fun Park 2012 (Really? The project name alone is making me happy!) Takashi Iwasaki has designed beautiful temporary installation on the Fubon Financial Centre. Not only does it look cheerful and buoyant, it perfectly conveys his artistic style on an enormous scale. If you’re not going to Taipei, you can find his work on a smaller scale on his website or at an August show in Winnipeg. I’ll be going to Winnipeg soon, so I’ll check it out and report back.

Colour has the power to uplift our everyday lives when it’s used in design. As I mentioned, my own home is very colourful and I find it a cheering contrast to the grey Vancouver weather. Occasionally people ask me for help in choosing their paint colours, and I’m always encouraging them to go for something bold and crazy. It really makes you feel happier, and that’s worth a lot!

Colour me inspired

One thing that always draws my eye is bright colour. So when I saw this photograph on the front of the Arts section of my Sunday New York Times, I started reading the article immediately.  It turned out to be a review by the wonderful arts writer, Michael Kimmelman, about a new exhibition on how design is helping to improve the lives of the impoverished around the globe.  I recommend the article for its inspiring take on how simple design can make huge changes, and in this case how whole neighbourhoods can be uplifted. In a life where too often we wrestle with our ridiculous “first world problems”, it’s good to be reminded of what’s really important in life.

I think about colour constantly and in my own home I have seen that bright colour can lift people’s moods. But can colour really help the poor? The photograph above is the Santa Marta neighbourhood of Rio de Janerio, Brazil, and the project has its own web page. Originally two Dutch artists, Haas & Hahn, began with wall murals in depressed neighbourhoods and then their vision extended to painting a whole block with colour, which is the Santa Marta square you see above. And now they have a new project, painting an entire favela, a Brazilian shanty town, towards which they are working on fundraising.

So how does this painting benefit the poor? Well, first off, locals were trained and paid to do the painting, so they got a pay cheque and acquired a skill. Secondly the neighbourhood has become a tourist attraction, with the traffic and interest that come from that. And finally, I think that having a beautiful monument must be adding to the self-esteem of those who live in the neighbourhood. Art and beauty feed the soul.

A Vik Muniz painting in progress

This project reminds me of an inspiring film about a project by the artist, Vik Muniz. In this film, Waste Land, Muniz collaborates with a small impoverished community around a huge garbage dump in his native Brazil. We get to see the development of amazing art as well as the blossoming of the artistic souls of the catadores, or garbage pickers. As I watched this film with my teen-aged son, we both were moved to tears, or at least sniffling in his case.

In my day-to-day practice, I like to think that I make art that inspires, but it’s good to be reminded that there are artists who are taking their practice to inspiring heights by becoming agents of change. We can all aspire to do more with art.