I am re-reading I Send You This Cadmium Red, a book of correspondence between John Berger and John Christie. No other author’s writing hits me harder than John Berger’s.
This project began as a simple prompt, “just send me a colour…” For a couple of years, the two mailed letters and hand-made books describing the properties of various colors. Their messages detailed personal anecdotes (steeped in the history of art) along with their experience of and ways of looking at various colors.
My favorite letter Berger wrote to Christie:
Red is not usually innocent (look at this one) but the red you sent me is! It’s the red of childhood. A pretend red. Or the red of young eyelids shut tight – the red you saw when you did that. As I look at it, I wonder what will happen when it grows older. Maybe it wouldn’t be red anymore at all. My guess is it might become black…
Christie interprets a sort of rusty brown as “a colour that obliterates and conceals” – the colour of Joseph Beuys, which was not experienced as a coulour, but a substance. I love how Berger describes yellow as a stain, taking on the substance of what it is colouring. This book is just lovely and worth picking up.