Bauhaus: Colour & Shape Combinations

Feeling slightly under the (lovely) weather and having time on my hands to sort through piles of work in my living room, I came across a brown folder with many slips of paper with coloured shapes. During my Takeover week at Manchester Art Gallery this summer (see previous post here), I decided to run an informal survey which presented participants (all ages) with 3 blank shapes (circle, triangle, square). I wanted to test whether they would intuitively follow the Bauhaus colour theory, matching the primary colours by colouring in the shapes as follows: blue circle, red square, yellow triangle.

Wassily Kandinsky believed that there was a universal bias to matching the colours and shapes in the way above, which formed part of his teachings on spirituality in art and psychology of colours, inspired also by Goethe. Kandinsky tested this theory with his students at the Bauhaus school and, unsurprisingly, the students followed their teacher's theory and the results were unanimous. There's more background information to read here. The theory has since been criticised and the results have since been disputed and disproven as irrelevant to our contemporary culture and the way we interpret symbols of colour and shape.

Well, having spent some time counting up the combinations, the results of my mini-survey are displayed in the image as follows:

My colour-shape match results!

So, you can see that out of the 295 people who chose to take part, the most popular combination was red circle, yellow triangle, blue square, closely followed by yellow circle, red triangle and blue square. In a lot of cases, the circle was viewed as a sun or planet; the triangle was viewed as a pyramid, nacho or something spiky and agressive and the square was often a container for water, the sea, the sky and something calm.

I did get really into this and recorded all of the responses and frequency of reasons. Here are some of the highlights:

"(blue circle) the moon - just chillin, (yellow triangle) DANGER - unnaturality, high voltage, (red square) unstoppable force"

"(blue circle) water drop, (red triangle) broken glass, (yellow square) pee"

"(red circle) sun, (yellow triangle) tortillas, (blue square) pool"

"(red circle) The clowns red nose, (yellow triangle) Roof of the houses, (blue square) Window in the house"

"(blue circle) I din't do it neat because I support M/C UNITED, (yellow triangle) Made me happy, (red square) It made me angry"

"(blue circle) An Allien egg, (yellow triangle) pyramid, (red square) button"

"(yellow circle) happy / the middle of a daisy, (red square) = stop / post box"

"(yellow circle) Joyful, because I think of happy faces and the sun, (red triangle) Angry because red is an angry colour. Red is for warning and danger signs, (blue square) gloomy"

 18 didn't conform to the instructions, either by colouring the shapes all one colour, just two colours, using two colours for one shape, or mixing primary colours to make secondary colours - many of these examples were by younger children or rebellious/non-conformist adults.

What is interesting is thinking about how these reasons change according to culture, age, background, interests, personalities etc. Also, by reducing these fabulous little coloured shape combinations into statistics, we also miss out on seeing the way each individual chose to colour their shape in and there were some great examples of this too! I'd like to turn into a piece of art soon... WATCH THIS BLANK COLOURED SPACE.

 

 

 

 

 

My Colourful Pop-Up World

It's the last few days of My Colourful Pop-Up World at Tate Liverpool! We've been responding to the Mondrian and his Studios exhibition as we explore abstraction, colour and geometry in both 2D and 3D. 

Piet Mondrian was one of the first artists to experiment with abstraction when he moved from Holland to Paris in 1911, then London and New York. In each city he moved to he had a studio, which served as a kind of 3D realisation of his gridded, geometric canvases. Mondrian was inspired by architecture and the increasingly built-up landscapes that surrounded his city centre studios.

Taking this theme of abstraction in the real world, participants have been creating gridded viewfinders which can be overlaid onto the windows of Tate Liverpool's Art Dock studio to colour and re-frame the landscape.  Participants are also leaving their colourful strips to be added to an evolving installation in the Family Room. Furthermore, they can experiment with paper manipulation and the art of pop-up as their cuts and folds turn into geometric sculptures and architectural-like models.  Watch this (square!) space for more photos of the Family Room in progress...

 

A Space for Curiosity and Free Play

After a long period of planning, research, studio time, workshops, material sourcing, installation, documentation, delivery and reflection (phew!), I am uploading my experience of working on the new Clore Art Studio at Manchester Art Gallery. Working in collaboration with fellow artists (and partners in crime) Sarah Marsh, Katy McCall and Family Learning Manager Alex Thorp, we created and produced the Clore Art Studio, a playful, interactive space which took initial inspiration from Grayson Perry's current exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences. For more information about the exhibition click here. The process behind Grayson Perry's work can also be viewed in his Channel 4 documentary In the Best Possible Taste (still available online on 4OD). 

Our brief was not to develop a direct interpretation or response to Grayson Perry's tapestries. Nor was it about creating a learning experience that attempted to 'educate others' and explain the concepts, processes and ideas behind Grayson Perry's work. It was more significant for us to respond as individual artists, distilling visual or aesthetic elements of Perry's work which related to our own practice and interests.

In addition, the intention was to create a space that would provide opportunities for free play, open-ended interaction, conversation and inter-generational activity, whilst at the same time making connections to Grayson Perry's exhibition in the neighbouring gallery . 

To develop this space, Sarah and I initially tested out our creative ideas and activities on a class of 5-6 year olds from St Augustine's Primary School, Monsall, Manchester. Workshops took place over one week, allowing us to develop themes, processes and a wish list of materials, resources and structures. Sarah was interested in 'lines' and I focused on the interplay of objects, colour and sorting. These themes were all pulled out as conceptual strands from Grayson Perry's tapestries, during our initial planning meetings.

As the week of research progressed, we began to understand the ways children could totally pull apart, deconstruct and re-figure a theme or idea! With this in mind, we needed to create a space that could provide endless opportunities for interaction with a number of robust, appealing objects and materials within an equally engaging, unbreakable installation framework. At this point, Katy came on board to lend her wisdom to the positioning and installation of tables, storage, furniture and objects. 

The end result was a deconstructed version of Perry's world of furniture and colourful, domestic objects in a vibrant, quirky installation. In his work, Perry suggests that different household objects and interiors are indicators of a particular class taste and identity, but what happens when children are placed into such a space? At what age does a child begin to demonstrate a sense of taste and a preference for one item over another?  And why? Would children even place such meanings and values over a particular object or would their response be completely 'innocent' and untainted in relation to adult-oriented notions of class taste and identity? 

In the Clore, a storage unit fashioned out of reclaimed deep, blue crates displayed an arrangement of enticing, colourful, domestic, pound shop items, textiles and ribbons laid out ready for play. White, deconstructed furniture provided a framework for play and interaction within the space. Opposite, a drawing table was laden with silverware and looping lines of words, which encouraged people to look at and choose objects to draw in a continuous line. Meanwhile, key words were positioned around the space, prompting action: wrap, stack, sort, shadows, line, patterns, twist, weave, hide, same, different, etc. Meanwhile, on the side walls, photographs of children from St Augustines were displayed, facing old TV monitors with films of children playing within the studio space.

To follow-up on the installation of the space, we were invited to facilitate artist-led interventions within the studio during the weekends, while a team of volunteers were trained to maintain and run the space throughout the week. The studio became a lively, popular place for visitors of all ages and many observations were kept of the variety of weird and wonderful interactions and happenings witnessed over the four months! All in all, it was a rather, wacky, ambitious and fun project to be involved with, once the inital stress of rushed installation deadlines was out of the way!! 

For more information, see Manchester Art Gallery's Studio Sketchbook blog. Click here for a write-up by Alex Thorp and also click here for my Top 10 observations working in the Clore!