When We are Deprived of Colour…

If you’ve read my blog before (thank you), you will know that I am a big fan of Iceland –  see Colour At The Edge and Inspiration From Reykjavik. I was over again last week and something dawned on me. What do you do if your natural surroundings starve you of colour? Of course, I know there is colour in Iceland – the hot lava and the bubbling mineral pools (below) but much of the country is covered in barren lava fields (second image). Add to this the long dark Winters and the mild but often grey Summers and you soon discover that there are a lot of natural grey tones to this magical island.

 

A beautiful blue hot pool

A beautiful blue hot pool

Lava fields near Keflavik

Lava fields near Keflavik

So, a lot, even perhaps an excess of grey around.

What happens to compensate for the lack of colour is this…

Interiors BURST with colour

Interiors BURST with colour

and you paint your homes like this…

You Paint Your Homes BRIGHT

You Paint Your Homes BRIGHT

and your computer power cables get some treatment too:

power cables

and your road signs and bollards look like this:

Reykjavik streets

and one of your most celebrated Icelandic artists, Erro,  paints in this palette:

Icelandic Pop Artist Erro

Icelandic Pop Artist Erro

and shops look like this:

A Shop in Reykjavik

A Shop in Reykjavik

Ok, I think you can see what I’m saying. Starve the human psyche of colour and soon we will find our way to compensate.

Reykjavik Rooftops

Reykjavik Rooftops

But something else struck me on this visit. At first I thought the parks and small gardens looked rather untended. They were full of weeds, dandelions, buttercups and cow parsley mainly, growing out of every crack or gutter. But remember, it’s pretty difficult for anything to grow here on the hard lava rocks and the tricky climate. If you had a barren patch of land and a bright yellow flower appeared, you are hardly going to go and pull it out are you? They absolutely embrace little plants that we in Britain get excited about pulling out. I quite honestly see my garden at home with new light, and it’s not just an excuse to avoid weeding, it’s about appreciating life form.

Buttercups next to Tjornin

Buttercups next to Tjornin

 

And one last thing. Artist and product designer Almar Alfredsson, has just designed a set of wall plaques to commemorate Iceland’s 70 years of Independence this year. It’s a replica of a copper plate from 1944 showing the head of Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879) whose birthday, the 17th of June was chosen to be Iceland’s annual National Holiday  in recognition of his work on independence. And of course, why are these plaques so attractive and collectible? – he designed them in several bright colours of course!

 

Jon Plaques by Almar Alfredsson

Jon Plaques by Almar Alfredsson

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “When We are Deprived of Colour…

  1. So many wonderful ways to bring a not-so-colourful landscape to life! I love all the fun & bright colours that are used on the buildings & signs, and all the bright rooftops. And yes, weeds CAN be pretty additions to gardens if we have the right perspective 🙂
    Iceland is one of my must-visit places – hopefully I’ll make it there soon, I think it’s a fascinating country 🙂

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    • Hi Kelly! Brilliant to hear from you! I’ve not been on blogosphere much lately so I must nip over to yours to see what you are up to. I hope you visit Iceland one day – I didnt even mention how fab the food is too 🙂

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  2. Love these colour pops! I am sure your observations on colour deprivation are spot on. Did you speak to anyone about this? I guess we only have a tiny inkling of this here in Scotland. Sure we have grey winters and skies but we are lushly green throughout the year, and of course no lava fields to smother colourful bits of life that may wish to appear. The interiors and exterior of the buildings are just stunning. Many here in Scotland would gasp in horror at such ‘brashness’ but I think it is beautiful. What a great way to put two fingers up to a harsh Mother Nature. 😉

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    • No, I didn’t speak to anyone about my ‘theory’, but I’m sure it explains their love of exuberant colours. The Icelandic folk make me so happy – I was watching some commuters at Hlemmur bus station and I chuckled so much seeing the neon opaque tights etc heading off to work, brilliant and why the heck not!
      Yep, you are right, there certainly would be many a gasp from us Brits – it’s not exactly very Farrow and Ball!

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  3. This is one of my favorite posts here, ever! I was very struck, visiting Stockholm in late November (!) how sensitive their designs and interiors were to light and all its uses; they even lit candles during lunch-hour, which totally shifted the energy of all the business meetings around us. I am very eager to visit Iceland.

    Have you yet been to Newfoundland? You’d find a similar aesthetic there, to some degree.

    One of my favorite visits was in December 1986 to a small Arctic village in Quebec, Salluit…I had never been in a place where everything was white: ice, snow, water….no trees as you are many miles above the tree line…no natural color. It was beautiful to see the minute shifts of color and tone as the light changed throughout the day.

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    • Oh gosh, I love the way you write!

      Well no, I haven’t been to Newfoundland but would would very much like to as I’ve read a few novels set there and I feel very drawn towards it.

      Iceland is just so easy for us as its only 2 hours flying time!

      I love your description of Stockholm in November, I can just imagine the scene and love that whole Winter/dark/cold/candle light thing – or as the Danes call ‘hygge’ and know exactly what you mean about shifting the energy, brilliant.

      Salluit sounds incredible, no wonder there are so many words for the ‘colour’ white in those parts.

      Traveling just makes me want to travel more – “oh, the places you’ll go!”

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      • Thanks!

        You of all people would so appreciate the Arctic. I’ve never since been in a place devoid of color — so that you suddenly (and this was a long time ago) really notice that the light changes and shifts every second, and with it, the colors and tones of the ice and snow and water — lavender and grey and blue. So interesting.

        The colors in Stockholm were fantastic but the quality of light, and attention to it, really inspired me. It was very interesting to see the calming effect of candlelight mid-day.

        The only other place where light-shifts were so astoundingly and beautifully obvious, minute by minute, is the Grand Canyon. They so deeply reward sitting still and just…looking.

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      • Oh yes, absolutely! We were lucky enough to be at the Grand Canyon two years ago and the colour shifts were absolutely staggering – along with the scale of it. Of course we had seen so many images of it before going but I was totally overwhelmed by the immensity of the canyon and nothing can prepare you for the ‘colour show’ you get with passing clouds or sunset/rise. Definitely one of those places that will never be as good on film as it is standing in it and feeling like a tiny spec next to such an incredible natural feature. It’s a great place to remind us humans who really is the boss!

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      • So glad that you have seen it. It is one of my favorite places on earth and so richly rewards close observation. It is a wholly different place hour after hour — and boy do you feel insignificant! My screensaver on my laptop now is a pic of one of the inlaid brass markers from one of the trails — “3070 million years ago” — which reminds me every time I see it what a speck we are on the universe…:-)

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