What's in a colour

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Just think about the significance of colour

Submitted: September 07, 2017

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Submitted: September 07, 2017

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What’s in a colour

 

Colours are all around us and like the air we breathe, taken for granted. Almost everyone has a favourite, but ask someone to explain why they favour a particular colour and you may be hard pressed for a rational answer; the object of this short article is to observe record and analyse the colour yellow; but before we do, a brief look at colour symbolism may aid the understanding.

Colours, have a much greater effect on our lives than may first be apparent. For most people colour is visual, we see; and look no further! But our subconscious also absorbs a level of awareness which is not always obvious. At its simplest, any driver will tell you that red means stop and green means go. From this fundamental principal we can deduce  an obvious fact that colours have both a positive and negative effect. All successful companies, political parties, designers, salesmen clerics and even diplomats will be aware of how colour communicates meaning. They know that colour  communicates itself in two primary ways, natural associations and psychological symbolism. They also understand that cultural heritage and nationality will alter an individual’s perception of the meaning of colour.  Put another way, each colour is a symbol in its own right; it  has both an aesthetic and psychological dimension and an individual’s gender, country of origin, culture and education will determine their perception. 

Some examples of the symbolic value of each colour;  red is seen as energetic, passionate, and powerful, it may also have negative connotations, aggression, danger, blood, war; and we all know about ladies who wear red hats! Blue suggests peace, tranquility, stability and harmony, and its negative side has to do with depression, and sadness; how often do we listen to people singing the blues! Green is perhaps the most ubiquitous colour; it’s Natures Brand;  and  as such it communicates growth, fruitfulness, freshness and ecology, but in some places green is associated with seasickness, money, greed, and jealousy; in religion it is the colour of the Prophet. All these emotional responses arise from a complex assortment of sources and will depend on context and individual perception. Subtle they may be, but they are none the less real! To underline the point colours are often used in therapy. Blue has a calming effect on many people and lowers respiration and blood pressure, red has the opposite effect. Some therapists use green to sooth and relax emotionally disturbed people who suffer from anxiety or depression.

Now we come to glorious yellow. It is said that yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colours and instil optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts. At the physical and subconscious level yellow stimulates mental processes, stimulates the nervous system, activates memory and encourages communication. Yellow is psychologically, the happiest colour in the spectrum.  Yellow is a symbol of remembrance; as in; tie a Yellow Ribbon; and it’s no accident that yellow is considered a warm colour in landscape design. Yellow is even said to have a smell; lemon peel gives off a strong “lemon scent”, said by aroma therapists to be up lifting, refreshing, stimulating and rejuvenating. However, In Christian iconography yellow is symbolic of greed, but Hindus wear yellow to celebrate the festival of spring. Is there a negative side to  yellow; of course. Yellow is the colour of cowards, in France it symbolises jealousy and in tenth century France the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow. Perhaps the most negative contemporary use of yellow was the armbands and stars Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis in concentration camps. I think the use of yellow was no accident; in those circumstances, it was symbolic of crushing happiness. Does all this matter, why should we be aware of colour. Well, try going into the  Celtic Park Stadium wearing a blue and white shirt or visit Ibrox Stadium in green & white, and the emotion generated by colour will be all too obvious. Down the centuries men and women have fought and died for their own particular colours. In the year 1099 a  red and white Christian flag was unfurled over the city of Jerusalem; it was replaced 88 years later by a green and black Muslim flag raised by Saladin, the Turkish born Sultan of Syria and Egypt. For the ensuing 800 years there has been a continuing  battle about the colour of the flag flying above the Holy City. At a more mundane level, spare a thought for the diplomats wife who inadvertently wears her favourite  blue and white dress to a reception at the Saudi Arabian embassy; it won’t cause a diplomatic incident but the Saudi’s would rather not see the colours of the Israeli flag flaunted in their presence. Colours are used on a daily basis to influence us all, on television, in advertisements and in magazines; colour is used to appeal to our subconscious; colours are symbols and symbols are important. Wearing a particular colour can suggest our nationality or underline our  allegiance to a specific club or party. Colours can alter a person’s mood  or even change their mind; they can invoke concord or discord;  we should rejoice, in the variety of colour that is all around us particularly yellow; but we should also be aware of the effects of colour on other people. To be aware is to be alive; to be more aware is to be more alive! 

 

 926 WORDS.


© Copyright 2019 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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