The Unafraid Red at QSS Gallery
Opening evening: Thursday 6th April 2017 6.00-9.00pm (wine reception)
Exhibition continues: Thursday 4th May 2017
Amanda Coogan performance: Saturday 29th April 2017, 12 noon – 4pm
Unafraid Red is the first of four exhibitions showing the work of QSS studio artists, curated by artist Colin Darke. It will be followed by Unafraid Yellow, Unafraid Blue and White. Recognising that the task of dividing twenty-three artists and twenty-three very different stylistic practices into four thematic categories would result in spurious relationships, Darke settled on assemblages based around colour. This allows for a level of visual cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that defines Queen Street Studios.
The shows’ titles reference Barnett Newman’s four paintings made between 1966 and 1970, titled Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, considering the juxtaposition of the three primaries as an emotional dialogue, as opposed to, for example, the more clinical, quasi-mathematical compositions of Mondrian. The fourth show alludes to the white gallery wall on which the paintings hang, an appropriation of the nothingness surrounding them.
The significance of colours is historically driven, its ostensibly subliminal messaging containing ideological, societal factors.
Red, signifying both sexual arousal (helped along with lipstick and blusher) and potential danger (in everyday signage) is, of course, the colour of blood. It became a symbol of workers’ struggle when, in 1831, calf’s blood was used to die the flag of the Merthyr Rising in Wales. It has since remained the colour of socialism – confused in the USA, where Donald Trump’s tie proclaims his allegiance to the GOP.
The colour’s symbolic value has varied over time, but its association with love has remained a constant, both physical and spiritual. The red carnation makes its appearance in many paintings of the Madonna and Child, confirming the image of love in its purest form. Red’s association with unrestrained passion, on the other hand, made it ideal as the symbol of fire, as one of the four elements.
St. Antoninus of Florence, in his theological coding of colours, quietened its ardour, asserting red as representative of charity, while Goethe later said it “conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness”.
The diversity of the work in Unafraid Red results in a variety of conflicts and relationships which reflect the historical and universal significance of the common feature of their dominant colour.