“Colour is essential for life,” writes Frank H. Mahnke, the environmental designer who has studied colour since 1973. We at City Style and Living (CSL) try to celebrate colour in every issue – from the exuberance of travel and the quiet simplicity of monochromatic fashion to the tantalizing brilliance of food. We strive to celebrate the kaleidoscope that is life. Colour is emotional and there is a hue that fits every mood. “The romance of colour exists for everyone…colour is first a sensory event. Colours are true sensations not abstractions or ideas,” Linda Holtzschue in Understanding Color.
In essence, colour is about light (direct and reflected) and perception – we are able to differentiate objects by their colour. “The beginning of every color experience is a physiological response to a stimulus of light…Color is light alone, but it is experienced so directly and powerfully that we think of it as a physical entity,” adds Holtzschue.
Colours stand out from the relatively mundane black, white and grey. It is often said that there is nothing more important in a woman’s closet than her little black dress. Yet the dresses that make an impression on our psyche and in popular culture seem to be those of colour. Consider Nicole Kidman’s mustard cheongsam inspired sheath at the 1997 Oscars, or Scarlett O’Hara’s emerald curtain dress or Marilyn Monroe’s shocking pink robe as she sang diamonds are a girl’s best friend. We do like black and white for that matter, but to become embedded in the public consciousness it takes colour. Black and white are dramatic, evocative even, but colour is bold and in and of itself communicates non-verbally a plethora of signal and emotions.
At this time of year with gardens flourishing we are able to detect the daring of nature through colour. A backdrop of verdant leaves and foliage offsets a rainbow of flowers, insects and butterflies. Colour gives interest and excitement to a garden – a sense of easily detectable beauty. This is perhaps ever more perceptible while travelling abroad as our senses are heightened and the unfamiliar makes us more observant. Then too we see adobo buildings, fresco walls, or simply recognize a red front door amidst an otherwise unremarkable house.
Even in the kitchen colour becomes vital. Chefs cap off dishes with micro herbs and flowers less for flavour than intriguing colour. Modern plating has become the equivalent of an artists’ palette and achieving a balance of colour is as important as flavour in today’s top restaurants.
Why do we love colour so? French designer Jean Paul Gaultier perhaps said it best, “colour is life.”
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.