By Linoia Pullen
All the colours in the auditorium arise from the sunlight shining through coloured glass windows and the complementary colours that form as a consequence in the shadows.
The ceiling has the entire history of human evolution painted in images from Rudolf Steiner.
“If a real experience of colour is not cultivated in our time and if the mechanistic theories of the nature of colour persist, then children will be born who no longer possess any organ for the perception of colour. Life reveals itself through colour, but human beings will not be able to see colours, just as they can no longer see the elemental spirits. The world will then become grey.” This warning was given by Rudolf Steiner, educator and spiritual scientist, in the early 1900’s.
In 1931 the United Press gave the following picture of Moscow: ‘Six of the biggest streets are being turned into ‘Model Streets’, which are to set the pattern in a campaign for beauty in town planning. The leading architects had special difficulty regarding the colourings of the buildings and after much discussion, the colour grey found the most supporters, which stands in complete contrast to the lively pastel shades of the old Russian art.’ Rudolf Steiner characterised grey: “Grey is not a colour, not a tone, it is a noise (shout)”.
The greyness of our technological era, the greyness of our buildings, grey machines, grey concrete of homes and office blocks have caused a colour revolution. We now have ‘Dayglow’ colours, neon signs, psychedelic dissonant music, laser concerts, and fashion statements setting out literally, to destabilise and unsettle the heart, to bombard the soul, making holes in the fabric of our sheaths.
Of clothes, Virginia Wolff, author of the Edwardian era, part of the Bloomsbury set, and one of my heroes, said:
“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us. Thus there is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them. We may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they would mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”
Lianne Collot d’Herbois, author and painting therapist, found colour to be the bridge between spirit and everyday life. She was able to show how people’s constitution, temperament and illness are revealed by their paintings.
“In our time we tend to lose the possibility of seeing colour. Colour-blindness is not only something in the eye. It is something in the soul too. One can call it atrophy of the soul. That is something that will happen more and more.
In the world of colour, enthusiasm expresses itself in vermillion which has a conjunction with turquoise, as its complementary colour. Turquoise is the carrier of morality, so when we lose the vermillion, we lose the turquoise as well. When we lose consciousness of the red, our soul suffers the same loss; also in the soul world it is a loss.”
At the beginning of the 20th century tests revealed by medical experts in England that four million people were colour blind. Through my own work on colour consultation, make up and clothing, my teacher, Beni Kleynhans, led me to discover the soul depths of colour. He said:
“In my soul there sounds a constant lighting up and darkening of beings and gestures which I cannot give names to, except (and even then not true enough) through the larynx of colour.”
And Winston Churchill wrote in 1948:
“I cannot pretend to feel impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns. When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject.
But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermillion will be the darkest, dullest colours upon it,
and beyond them there will be a whole range of wonderful new colours which will delight the celestial eye.”
I cannot read these words, which I have memorised, without shedding tears of joy juxtaposed with a deep sadness and longing, for what I know to be the truth of these words and for how impoverished our souls have become. As Winston Churchill said I too cannot pretend to be impartial about colour. From a tiny child I embraced every bloom in my Aunt’s garden, making pin dolls with complete wardrobes – Daisies of all colour and Sweet peas for the day; Foxgloves and Watsonias for evening; Agapanthus, Fuchsia or grand Gardenia for the Opera. This led to my lifelong interest colour and clothing both for body and soul.
In 1985 I discovered Johannes Itten of Bauhaus fame, with whom I share a birthday. One might say my life’s calling sounded through the pages of his work The Art of Colour. I was led to him by my Canadian mentor in colour harmony, Ethel Harper, a psychiatric nurse who developed her gift of selecting the personal colours of her clients from a range of over 3000 colours, to engender inner and outer harmony. Johannes Itten, one might say, is the father of individualised colour harmony, which he titled Subjective Timbre. He describes the seminal moment of this discovery: “I was assigning harmonic colour to a class… after working away for about twenty minutes the cases became restless. When I enquired what the matter was, I was told “We all thin the combinations you assigned are not harmonious.” “Alright, let each of you paint whatever combinations you find pleasant and harmonious”. It was realised with astonishment that each one had a private conception of colour harmony. In closing this session Itten remarked that the colour combinations constructed as harmonious by each individual represent individual colour opinions – subjective colour. It is from these that one’s personal colour wardrobe emerges gradually as the soul develops. An experiment I conducted with various artists has indicated that the personal colour palette shines through their work.
‘Only those who love colour are admitted to its beauty and immanent presence. It affords utility to all, but unveils its deepest mysteries only to its devotees.’The Art of Colour – Johannes Itten