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colour chart samples wood masonite steel pins glue
126 x 189cm
Collection: Pretoria Art Museum

Colour Charts / Skynbord

  • SKYNBORD was my first attempt at compiling a dictionary. At the time I was fascinated by the visual properties of colour, and how they relate to the phonetic and verbal descriptions given to them. The collation of paint shop brochures and the recording and structuring of the information cut out of these brochures was completed over a two-year period, between 1977-1979. I created 324 cards or charts, each composed of 16 colours, which I arranged in a block pattern on a white background. Then I configured these cards in a rectangular sequence of 27 rows across and 12 rows down, recording the names of 5 184 colours, which were written in micro script below each of the corresponding colour blocks. The individual charts were arranged with a particular colour pattern in mind, whereas the composition of the entire work has been arranged loosely, without specific design. Small steel pegs with white heads were pushed into the hardboard support, which is painted white, and a piece of white string was used to hang each colour chart on a peg.


    Conceptually the work was inspired by the polarities between light and darkness. In the account given in Genesis of how the world was made, the first thing God created was light, which is now seen as symbolising morality, intellect and insight. The use of as many colours as possible in SKYNBORD gives the work the possibility of universal application: a kind of omni-presence created out of the omni-representation of the colours themselves. Illumination follows the route of the sun around the earth, which causes all things to reawaken on a daily basis.


    Another central theme of SKYNBORD is that it is related to a book. Traditionally, a book comprises many square and rectangular sheets of information, but because it is bound, the information cannot be visually perceived as a whole, but rather page by page. SKYNBORD attempts to unbind the book, allowing the viewer to see the entire content of the book simultaneously. This is equivalent to being able to read all 324 'pages' at the same time.


    There were a number of important goals I hoped to achieve in creating SKYNBORD. One was to remind people that light enables us to identify and differentiate things, not only by means of the colour spectrum but also in the very language and vocabulary developed to describe colour differences. I also used the names of colours when preparing a dictionary I named Colours and Pigments, and during my lectures I showed my students the cards themselves, to teach them aspects of colour theory. Again, the preparations I made for SKYNBORD were part of a process of active meditation, which was a defining aspect of the works I created during this period. I explored this meditative approach to artmaking much further when I made 370 DAY PROJECT four years later.

    (transcript from an interview conducted with the artist by W Siebrits, July 2007)

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