I’m not just fascinated by colour in a general way; colours are actually of central importance in my life, because I’m semi-synesthetic, meaning I associate all letters and cyphers with certain colours. In my brain, every letter of the alphabet has its own fixed colour, concepts have colours, dates, numbers and words are colour sequences. Some people also “see” sounds and smells in this way, which isn’t the case with me though.
These colours have been more or less the same for me ever since I learned to count and spell, which definitely explains my constant obsession with colour in my work and my resulting love for enamels and watercolours. The first letter of my name, N, has always been a particular shade of purple-pink, a mixture of magenta and heliotrope, as I later learned when I started researching the history of colours, their names and cultural significance.
Heliotrope is a colour that perhaps sounds more sumptuous than its history would suggest. It is named after a flower that will always turn its head towards the sun, even more so than other plants. The word is made up of the Greek words helios, ‘sun’, and tropaios, ‘to turn’. This colour was particularly fashionable in the late 19th century, when a pervasive cult of mourning evolved that reached ever more complex rules regarding dress code and social behaviour. Since the flower was associated with devotion in the Victorian ‘language of flowers’, it was one of the few colours permitted when in mourning, following the matte black of the strictest mourning period.
As I create new work, I am mindful of all kinds of historical and cultural associations, layered over one another, creating a dialogue between my personal visual language and a general Western cultural history and its mythological connotations.
As the chain of meaning and meta-meaning expands, this enamelled pomegranate becomes a complex mesh of desire, devotion, Paradise, the myth of Persephone and Hades, ripeness, abundance, motherhood, bursting open, scattering seeds, sexuality, royalty, indecency, virginity and the loss thereof, pain, blood, love, grief, longing and death.
St Clair, Kassia: Die Welt der Farben. 2018. Hoffmann and Campe Publishers, Hamburg.
Finlay, Victoria: Das Geheimnis der Farben – Eine Kulturgeschichte. 2016. Ullstein Publishers, Berlin.