Sunday, 22 August 2010

Festival Exhibition 2010 Newsletter: "The Colour Red"

Starting, Sunday 22nd August 2010 11 am-12.30pm
Above: "15% Red" by Gillian Hayes

When Gillian presented me with “The Colour Red” series, my heart skipped a beat.
I could immediately relate to red as a colour of passion and energy, the Spanish football team and this warm summer. On the other hand, red is the colour of blood, violence and destruction. However the significance and relevance of this collection of 14 photographs where the power of red is measured and restrained went beyond this.

When the World Cup started I was agonising with the game of the Spaniards…”kick…tackle…shoot!”
My “red”, temperamental side was struggling to understand what I judged (or misjudged) as a lack of energy and strength. I saw their technical “pass and move” game as weak. It was an English friend who then insisted that “they will go all the way”. To me, it was as if, paradoxically, the English and other teams showed the passion that my fellow citizens were missing. I could relate more to that style of game and what journalist Tom Lappin called a “primitive approximation to football”. It felt as if the red team was more tempered, more “British” in their approach… as if they had swapped their cultural stereotypes. I instinctively reacted against that patient, technical game. And so did some British citizens, as Lappin pointed out “BBC sports commentators remain deeply suspicious of anything that looks like patience, delicacy or thought”.
Well, so did I!
What amazed me was finding these qualities “out of context” or “in the other team” which suggested that things are never black or white or, as in this case, red and black.

On the other hand, this colour brought ideas of aggression to mind, a past that if you’re Spanish, you can’t dissociate from red. The colour of the blood spilled in a conflict that often confronted members of the same family and that, like blood cells of an open wound, stays alive in the memory, and often expresses through art.

Red also reminded me of the blood of that noble animal, the bull, which has shared the Iberian landscape from the beginnings of time. And despite red being movement and energy, when it came to bullfighting, in my mind it only reinforced aspects of brutality, blindly anchored in the safeguards of tradition. Like a vestige of the very same cruel nature that had allowed a civil war to tear a country apart.

Then, only a few days after I had taken Gillians’ project under my wing, and a few months after we had put on an exhibition that showed beautiful bulls without the fight; comfortable and powerful in their own land, the “party” was forbidden in Barcelona as the result of public vote.

Something seemed to move. The energy dimension of red suddenly triumphed over the aggressive, darker one.

All in all, an exhibition that negotiates passion with reason, intensity with measure…echoes previous reflections about the balance between the right and left hand side of the brain, sense and sensibility, mind and heart.

To me, it also talks about a journey, all that is Spanish or British and everything in between. A place where both opposite sides have a place and a time. Where we can meet halfway and find a bit of ourselves in the “other team”.

Join me this Sunday and find your own place between the 1% and 95% red progression of these stunning 14 photographs by Gillian Hayes.

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