Red is a very strong colour. It is the colour of the earth itself.
The initial impression of something, ‘earthy’ might be the calm, undulating hills of Wales on a sunny day. But, while red can be that immovably tranquil, it does so by it’s deep strength which can equally be expressed in an erupting molten mass from a volcano.
Removed from the outdoors, red continues to exercise his strength in the studio: His tenaciously pigmented fingerprints will not wash off a person’s skin for a week; his yell will cause your ears to crackle while grinding; and his stubborn refusal to sink in water once finely ground—as all rocks do—further demonstrates his tenacity.
These attributes are in keeping with red’s origins. Red ochre could be thought of as simply rusty, decomposed iron but, according to Plutarch, it is the substantive bones of dead gods—there needs be that such remains possess an echo of their origins, I think.
Red also connects us with the earth. The same ochre that pigments the earth gives colour to our blood. In our age of virtual self-aggrandizement and unnatural-actions, red connects us back to our reality—as the modelled clay of our earth. And, while mankind’s history attests to our own strength to create and destroy, we never do so divorced from the earth, but rather as an extension of it and ultimately, upon ourselves.
My very first pigment-hunt was searching for red from Hell’s Gate on the Mattawa River. It was a mystical adventure, and one that connected me with an artistic process going back 30,000 years. My ‘red’ experiences remain my most powerful, and my most fun.