Colors and their Ambiguity and Contradictions
Words often fail to capture color. Their nuances, their ambiguity, fluidity all slip through the cracks of words.
Words seem to exist in an eternal state, a place of permanence. Even though their meanings change through time, within a generation or a single human’s life, that might be hard to notice or even impossible. But colors out here in the world, they flow, vibrate and change with the cycle of the sun, the seasons, and the lights we turn on and off in our houses and streets. The colors might repeat themselves in our lifetimes if only for a brief moment each time.
Right now as I walk to the bus, there’s a play of the gold-light from the sun, that slowly rises, and the shadows in the snow. The shadows are drenched in a soft blue or purple. It’s a color with great presence, but also very subtle whispers. It almost emanates the cold I feel on my skin, but also comfort and embrace.
Soon these colors will melt as the day goes on and the sun changes its mood. Maybe around 4pm or 5pm there’ll be some similar colors again if the atmosphere doesn’t change and the clouds stay as they are. But will they be the same? Even their similarity will be different, emphasized by the different state I will find myself in, my chest carrying different humors and responses to the world.
Color is so powerful because of this fluidity and ambiguity. Color is able to contradict itself.
The deep red, purple and orange that may emerge from some sunsets. They’re beautiful, longing and contemplative. They ask of us, “Stop. Take a moment, right here, and see me.” But the colors can also feel ominous, heavy making us maybe even a bit scared — “Will the next day come for sure? Is life going to keep on going, or was this my last sunset?”
And the blue-purple of the snow, and the gold-light, right now they seem to dance and shift between cold and warm and warm and cold. The blue becomes warm for a second, comforting. Then it recedes back into the cold, pulling with it the gold. And then this golden air that so often feels like a soft embrace, becomes cold and apathetic, superior to my experiences and my need of warmth. This all happening in a fraction of a second — it’s like a coin flipping in the air, quickly shifting from one to the other.
In one single moment I feel it all because of color. This slippery characteristic of vision that eludes so many of us. No wonder so often people are most attracted to the color of a painting — even when it’s exactly because the painting lacks colors. Color breathes, flows and changes so quickly it creates in us a sense of continual rediscovery.
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