Thursday, 20 November 2014

Take it black

Color expert Katrin Trautwin has written an intriguing book (actually two sections in a slipcase) about black and color, it's primarily aimed at architects and interior designers. She writes about the different blacks and in particular Ivory Black made from charred animal bones. Because this is expensive the commercial mixing industry uses carbon black for paints, printing inks, plastics et cetera but this can't offer a really solid velvety black.

The nine essays and lists in the book analyse color used by architects, especially Le Corbusier who, with Amedee Ozenfant in the 1920s, used their theories for colors inside Modernist houses. They thought specific pigment mixtures, always natural ones, could influence how space is perceived. Color could help in four functional ways: Atmospheric; Constructive; Dynamic; Decorative. The book quotes the Decorative function using glazes, patterned wallpapers, mural and tapestries as helping to modify the appearances of surfaces within three-dimensional structures.

I mentioned that the book is in two parts. One has the essays (in English and German) and the other has twenty-four color samples which fit inside the second book's pocket. These samples, roughly 10.75 by 9 inches, are very impressive to look at and feel. To get really solid, deep color they have been screen printed on white card. There are sixteen shades of black only using Ivory Black for printing. Sheet eight is just called Black, a lovely solid, velvety color, the other fifteen are equally strong and powerful but have tinges of red, blue, purple, green and brown yet compared to the other color sample sheets anyone would say they are all black. Ultramarine blue, Champagne white, Deep red and Gold bronze plus four greys make up the eight other sheets in the set. Incidentally because these sample sheets are screened with rich, solid colors they need to be handled carefully because they will show up any marks made on the surface.

The first book has some interesting color theories and their practical uses but it was the richness of the screen-printed samples in the second book that made it all come alive for me.

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