Subdued brilliance

(inner calm and not-separateness)

We come to the most difficult yet most essential aspect of the field effect which produces inner light: subdued brilliance.

Let us imagine that at a certain stage in the development of a colored thing — building, painting, furniture, or cloth — we have gained a wonderful bright feeling where the colors work together, they are brilliant. But they are perhaps too bright, too vulgar, not profound. Let us say that the color is too garish. To make it more profound we have to cut it back. We have to subdue the influence of the whole thing. We quieten it, gently. We quieten it a little more. Then, when we are just to the edge of feeling that we have taken away its brilliance, we put something back — and all of a sudden the color really shines, and the deep meaning shows itself.

That is subdued brilliance.

It can take two different forms. The first form is quiet. Sometimes, to do it, I reduce the intensity of colors by making them more white or more gray. Then the actual pigments are subdued, but I keep the overall brilliance of the field of color — only now somehow it is more profound. That is the first form. The second form is almost opposite. I have pigments which are intense, very bright. But in their interaction they become muted, because they are so carefully chosen, so perfectly chosen, that they melt together and seem quiet even though, individually, as colors, they are bright.

Both these forms work very well. And although they sound different, actually they are the same. In both cases, what I aim to get in the end is subdued brilliance, which shows me I have finally done my work.

The field works, and the unity is created, under those conditions when the colors are both very bright in themselves, and also very much melted together, and indistinguishable from one another. This is the same as the field of centers itself where, in order to succeed, the centers are strong individually in their own life, and also create an overall unity in which the centers are indistinguishably melted in one another to produce a single overall life.

In the case of color, this complex two-sided effect takes a particular form: the colors are bright and intense individually, but very muted, often very light… and they are, at the same time, pale, muted, and working together, so that there is no overall crass brightness of color.

The subdued brilliance which is central to inner light can be consciously controlled. It happens in two ways, which are usually combined.

The first way involves the use of apparently muted colors, but in a way where each color intensifies the others. For example, suppose we are trying to intensify a red. It will happen, often, through the use of green. But it is often the case that this intensification will be most effective — both most intense, and also most harmonious — if the green is very subdued. Either a white, with a touch of green in it, so that it is almost white — or a green with a very large amount of gray in it, so that it is almost gray. Thus in this case, the brilliance of the combination depends on the use of a fairly intense red, complemented by a very large amount of very subdued greenish white or greenish gray. So, in this first case, the overall feeling of the color field is muted. It is not gaudy, or garish. It is calm, soft-toned, subdued. This happens because many of the colors have a surprising amount of gray of white in them. They are not pure pigments.

The other way that subdued brilliance helps to produce inner light relies on very intense colors, used in a way which seems muted. […] This is a much harder trick than the other. Once again, it happens because the pigments themselves are dampened, muted, by using gray or complementary colors mixed in. Yet at the same time, some of the colors which actually produce this effect, are also, after all intense and brilliant: they are not, themselves, subdued. And this is very surprising — the use of brilliant colors, to produce a muted whole, or an overall unity so profound that nothing stands out, everything melts together, and yet the actual colors that are used are brilliant.

Of course, the reason that this double thing occurs is that the color harmony is so beautifully ordered, so subtle, that the colors seem to melt into one another. When something is made whole, the color always has this special subdued brilliance. The subdued brilliance is produced in two different, complementary ways.

Remember that there are two specific ways in which this phenomenon is helped to happen. First, the bright, or brilliant colors, are often surprisingly light — they have a lot of white in them […]. The use of bright colors, in very light versions, which are not whitish (like pink, or cream), but very clear and light: very light red like vermillion, scarlet, washed over white does not look pink, but very light; clear yellow washed over white, does not look cream colored, but clear yellow, again very light.

Second, the other thing which seems to happen is the use of small amounts of deep contrasting colors […].

So the subdued and bright is often done by a combination of large areas of light, clear colors, contrasted with small quantities of relatively deeper colors, more blackish and more densely saturated.

It is often a feature of this subdued brilliance that the colors are not obvious at all. They are not the simple primaries red, yellow, blue. They tend to be complex and subtle colors… a red with gray in it, a blue with slightly greenish hint… a yellow with a brownish pink cast… or light bluish grey, a yellowish brown, a whitish green. This occurs because it is necessary to make complex and subtle colors, simply in order to meet the conditions which have been described in these pages — and thus to bring light to life on the page or in the building. It is always surprising.

In addition, there are often large areas of relatively neutral colors, which contain barely a hint of color. A white which has a touch of blue in it… a gray which has a very slight tone of yellow… a black, which is not quite black, but has certain reds in it… but in all cases, so subdued that one can hardly see them. And yet, these very slightly colored neutral tones play a huge role in the architecture of the color.

Subdued brilliance, when it goes to the extreme, is both gloomy and brilliant, like a smoldering fire, embers glowing, other parts dark or dead, fire waiting to burst forth.

This quality creates the quietness of [[ inner calm ]] and not-separateness. Making the colors calm and neutral, we completely prevent the dominance of any one color over the others. It is this which allows the whole to melt, and it is this which then creates the field effect most strongly. The dominance of any one center disappears. All the centers fuse to form a single unbroken whole.

(Pages 220-226)

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