Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht
David Bathelor, Supports for Colours
For a long time now, artist and writer David Batchelor has been interested in ‘supporting’ colours, in finding material supports for the colours he is investigating. Colour, for Batchelor, is particularly interesting in its most commercial, plastic, artificial form and the urban environment is a suitable place to find such colours. Batchelor often finds his materials in urban junkyards and in cheap shops. 'Colour is the marker for the pound shop, the 99cent store. Coloured is where the poor go to consume.'
Batchelor briefly touches upon chapters in his renowned book Chromophobia (2000). Colour, especially bright colours, have come to be associated with the primitive, the barbaric, the infantile, the exotic and the feminine. Black and white on the other hand, are the hallmark of civilized Western society. Since the 18th century we tend to prefer the ‘line’ (disegno) over the colour. Slowly but steadily, we have gone ‘chromophobic’ (afraid of colour).
Of course, Batchelor says, there have also always been chromophilic writers. Wittgenstein, Matisse, Baudelaire, Barthes (‘colour is like the closing of an eyelid’), Kristeva, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Melville’s Moby Dick are examples. But still, these writers look at colour as something different, they look at it as ‘the other’. Perhaps the movie the Wizard of Oz (1939) is actually the most compelling description of colour, yet, even there, colour is attached to the unconscious, the dream world of Dorothy.
Although humans have the capacity to discern about eleven million colour tones, we tend to generally use only eleven colour terms (researchers Berlin and Kay tried to proof that this is a cross-cultural phenomena). There seems to be a language gap between perception and denomination.
What Batchelor finds interesting in colour, and tries to explore in his sculptural works, is that colour cannot be contained. He’s interested in the moment colour escapes from its supports. 'I love the work of James Turell, but I don’t want my colours to be disembodied like his. I need to ground my colours.' Indeed, Batchelor experiments with the materiality of colour blobs by drawing a base underneath them. 'As soon as they have a base, they gain "weight".'Perhaps a weight of colour?