Monday, January 10, 2011

Creativity: Monochrome vs Colour

It is well known in photography that so-called artists prefer to shoot in black and white or monochrome for the simple reason that there is no colour to distract the focus of the viewer and that the focus of the subject can be brought out much better and quicker.

While we talk of black and white, there is no such a thing - there is black and white and all the shades of black and white in between. Black and white is also called monochrome to suggest that there is one colour and all the shades of it. Is that colour black or is it white? Of course, from science class we know that black is no colour and white is all colours mixed. Would monochrome then be the result of different intensity of light or whiteness? If there is different shades of whiteness, then white (which is a combination of all colours) is a truly integrated colour where there is no separation out into any of the components (primary) colours even when the whiteness is being diluted out in various shades.

It would then appear that monochrome is a truly integrated colour and that while there are shades of it, it does not discompose into its constituent colours.

In the realm of the human race, while the human race - apparently descended from a man and a woman (Daoists would generalise it into yin and yang) or from a family or from a small group of survivors of the last earthly environmental catastrophe thousands or millions of years ago - have evolved to the many shades that we now see in the faces of humanity on earth today, how then do we begin to see humanity as being the same.

I suppose that in monochrome, we would distinguish humans from non-humans. It is quite easy to say that the mountains and the rivers, the trees and the birds and the animals are non-humans - the conclusion of which unfortunately leads humans to the mindless destruction of non-human nature and the environment in the name of saving the human race.

The difficulty, even at this stage, leads us into the realm where humans are not so clever - that of ghosts and spirits and souls: are they humans or non-humans? Most mere mortals choose not to dwell on this, and it is quite clear that the only difference is the availability of a physical body - and if this is the case, then a human is being defined merely by the features of the physical body - which are most likely to be features that are most like our very own.

Hence, there is this great emotional affinity to people who look most like us or those whom we know. As features become different merely by the different sizes in relation to the rest of the body, even in monochrome, one group begin to distinguish itself from others. Layer by layer, each group finds the reasons to exclude others from their clique - so long as that group is trying to protect its environment for its own economic survival. Of course, if there are common interests to be shared or exploited, there will be an attempt to look for the commonalities from the same features that have been used to try to make distinctions before.

While we bring in colours to the pictures, while the whole picture brightens up, there will also be more distractions and more differences seen. The red begins to make itself different from the yellow and the blue, and the white tries to think it is a superior colour to the black. The common heritage of the human race or even of the living nature is easily all lost as more points of differences can be identified.

Through the eyes of a monochrome expert (Henri Cartier-Bresson or Ansel Adams), the colours are there but the black and white allow emphasis of the subject. Through the eyes of a colour expert (da Vinci, John Constable, Picasso), the colours are used to brighten up the frame but the subject still stays in focus.

In the hands of amateurs, we usually see a mixed up of the subject with the colours or lack of. There is a tendency to over-dramatise or the failure to provide a theme. In the end, we see a confused state, and everybody talking at cross-purposes.

Especially in a multi-racial society, I think is very possible to paint in monochrome and create a great theme, as well as to paint in colour to emphasis the vibrancy along the same theme.


walla said...

White is no longer white the moment one or more of its component colors is removed. Its property of whiteness is but the arithmetical sum of the properties of its component colors.

Thus the grandeur and purity of the biggest depends on and is leveled by the contributions and uniqueness of the smallest. Like life.

Similarly, while those component colors may individually exist by themselves, they cannot by themselves create the whiteness whose difference from them makes their individual properties unique by virtue of whiteness providing the appropriate backdrop for their colors to come out which cannot happen if the backdrop had been black. Just as the largest depends on the smallest, the smallest depends on the largest. Like life again.

Thus the individual uniqueness of the component colors depends as much on the existence of whiteness to which they contribute as on their respective intrinsic properties by which they differ.

White itself is in a peculiar position. If everything in the visible world from birth had only been white in color, then it will only be a whitewashed world in one's mind all the time. There will be no notion of any other color, including black, the opposite of white. Likewise, any other color.

Without white and black, for instance, chess games would not be the same anymore. Without chess games, one would be at a loss where to find mental stimulation from clever combinations beyond the staid daily staples of indifferent intelligence in today's world. Except for a few blogs here and there.

Extrapolating games of chess, soccer matches are as colorful as the different jerseys worn. If the uniforms of both sides are exactly the same, it will be a free-for-all melee, offside can be mistaken as onside and own goal can be mistaken for opponent score.

Similarly, intrapolating games of soccer, piano keyboards can be bland without ebony and ivory to make harmonics.

Life is about relationships. One with the One, one with others, one with the physical and nonphysical worlds, even one with ideas and concepts and musical notes.

The residues of a cremation, for instance, are just some shiny colored pebbles amidst the grey of ash; some will say those are concentrated mineral deposits from what one has ingested throughout a life, perhaps remnants of medicinal or herbal origin. Others may remark they are symbolic of how a life has been lived.

..Whether the great lesson of complete detachment has been learned so well that the final legacy is just some happy colors of a life well-earned...for every life so given despite all the odds...have to be earned second by thought and deed.

etheorist said...

Happy new year, walla!

walla said...

thank you, etheorist, and same to you!

walla said...


The starkest notion about relationships takes place on a lifeboat. Parched by a merciless sun and awashed in a bluish-green ocean of water none of which drinkable, one bobs up and down with others without any visible sign of salvation. One may be white or yellow or brown but soon all will be tanned to the last man and indistinguishable one from the other except for certain physiognomical and cultural differences made small by the common plight shared.

Then survival depends on processes like optimization of scarce resources, creativity in solving life-threatening challenges, cool heads to lift sinking spirits and knowledge on how to read the stars above in order to paddle the fastest direction towards land.

Anyone can be a sailor, and when faced with life challenges as is the case every moment for everyone, all will have to become tanned, seasoned, and possibly salacious, sailors sooner or later.

The important thing for survival is to paddle the boat in the same direction without which a vortex will be created that will suck all to the bottom of the ocean as food for sharks which will be food for whales which will be tomorrow morning's catch at tsukiji market.

Some may say if there are less, the boat will be lighter, more rations can be given to the remaining and so the zero-sum game can be played all the way to the nearest shore. But how can that be when rations are already indifferent, more hands are needed to paddle against rising tides and some of the oarsmen have already jumped boat and are swimming off on their own to the nearest watering hole?

Relationships which endure because they are useful are thus built on the foundation of rationale minds, good character and practical knowhow. Pigmentation plays no part, especially when applied to politics.

Nevertheless, colors have also been said to have symbolism. For instance, blue is cool, yellow is smart and green is refreshing but brown is conservative, black is regal while purple is spiritual and red is energetic.

Does one's preference for a color change in a life-cycle? When young, pink, yellow and green for chic, growth and ambition; when middle-aged, blue for cool and steady; when older still, brown for establishment, and when really old, red for what-the-heck.

Unlike the monochromatic fare in many of today's fast-up retail shops, the italian garments chain Benetton specializes in all colors at the same time. Yet for many, having too many colors in the same item, unless it is a woven scarf or sweater, may be too loud. The tendency then is not to attract too much attention. Just plod on as quietly as possible without fanfare until the end.

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unique birthdate would be:


starting in the next few minutes..

good nite all.

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