Color and the field of centers

It is obvious that the eleven color properties which I have identified closely resemble the fifteen ways that centers help each other come to life. Like the geometric properties, each describes one way in which colors intensify each other to produce inner light. There is also a literal resemblance between those color properties and the geometric properties, which may be brought out as follows.

Hierarchy of colors, like levels of scale, establishes the actual areas of color and requires a gradient of areas, by size.

[[ Sequence of color pairs]], like [[centers ]] and gradients, establishes a direction, on orientation of the colors towards a center which is the target of a given goal.

[[ Colors create light ]], like positive space, requires the complementarity and cooperative wholeness of adjacent colors, just as positive space is formed by the mutual reinforcement of positive geometric volume and geometric space.

Contrast of dark and light is obviously like contrast: it is virtually the same idea.

Mutual embedding, like [[ deep interlock ]], requires that when two wholes are near each other, each one partially penetrates the other, to knit the two together.

[[ Hairlines and boundaries ]] is the same as boundaries.

Families of color is very similar to echoes: it requires a hidden similarity among the elements which appear in a given whole.

[[ Clarity of individual color ]] is like strong centers and good shape: it requires the individual clarity and beauty of the elements themselves.

Color variation, like roughness, says that the whole will be more profound, if the individual repetitions (in this case of color in the plane) varies with local circumstance, instead of being homogenous.

Subdued brilliance is like [[ inner calm ]] and not separateness: it requires the calm humility of the colors, and prevents any one from shouting out too loud by itself.

Color depends on geometry, like strong centers, like local symmetries, places an almost exaggerated emphasis on symmetry and geometry, causing the whole to hold together, and to receive its brilliance.

Evidently, the color properties are very similar to the geometric properties we have discussed in the previous chapters. They are not identical, but they deal with the same kinds of issues translated into the world of color. I wish to emphasize that this is a discovery, not an assumption. The eleven color properties were derived empirically, without reference to the geometric properties. There was no reason to assume that the properties of color fields would be the same, or even similar, to the properties which create geometric unity. But after identifying them experimentally, it turned out that there is a kinship between the two sets of properties.

The parallel between the color properties and the geometric properties underlines the existence of the profound connection between color and geometry. Wholeness of color is evidently very similar both in quality and structure to the geometric wholeness which we have observed. In both cases, we may see this wholeness as a field of centers. It is a structure in which centers intensify one another, to produce increasing unity and in which the field — in the end — melts, as this pure unity is attained more and more.

We have seen that these properties are geometric properties which unify space by providing different ways that centers come to life, and combine to form larger centers. Now, we find that they are also linked, indirectly, to a more pervasive kind of unity — a field-like light — which seems to spread throughout a thing when it is correctly colored.

I conclude that even the inner light which we have observed through color is itself a product of the field of centers: but this product is a unity. It is one thing. It is not some other thing, pasted on top of the field. It is the field itself, shining with light, when it is properly made. But it is one. Thus the color properties are almost exactly parallel to the fifteen geometric properties we have already identified in the realm of geometry.

It also seems that the two sets of properties are causally related. Wholeness in geometry somehow helps to create inner light in color. Inner light in color somehow helps to produce wholeness in geometry. Even when all these aspects of the color field are there, it turns out, finally, that you cannot create this inner light, unless the geometric structure of space supports it. In other words, the oneness of space — the properties, the centers, and so forth — is a necessary ground, in which the colors work.

The interaction of color and geometry is unexpected, and difficult to understand. We are aware, of course, that color, brilliance, is affected in some general way by spatial organization. But what we discover from our experiments is much more specific, and much more surprising. Apparently the presence of the fifteen properties in the geometry of a thing, also gives its color life, somehow brings the colors to their maximum potential. Two or three colors in flat areas, side by side, are nice maybe, but nothing special. Yet as we introduce the geometric properties into the space, the colors begin to shine, begin to interact in amazing and deep ways, to produce a sensation of “color” (note the singular) besides which the original colors (note the “s”) are merely flat zones, empty and meaningless vibrations.

Just as the geometry gives life to the colors, so too, the color seems to bring the space to life. It is as though the colors, correctly distributed, affect the space so deeply that the geometric properties themselves are intensified, the oneness of the space is intensified, deepened, altered, by the colors. This is amazing indeed. It is not so surprising that space has the power to affect color. But that color also affects space — that the two are somehow deeply interlocked — that is truly surprising, and poses many unanswered questions. For this implies that the geometrical phenomenon whichI have called “oneness” lies in some domain which we can hardly even identify. It is as though the space and the color together create a world of structure, a type of structure, that we cannot define at all — as though the very oneness of space which we seek to define lies in this very inaccessible realm. It is this fact which makes me suspect that the color phenomenon itself is actually happening in the I.

Color is thus not an isolated phenomenon. It is not something which is merely “stuck on” to the geometric structure we have been discussing. It is fundamental to the structure of space, and to our understanding of function and geometry, and raises the possibility of seeing living structure more deeply. But its unity, its life, lies in a realm which is not entirely accessible to structural descriptions. The order which we have described by means of the field of centers, touches it, is necessary to it, but does not catch its essence. That can be understood only in the transcendental realm.

(Pages 230-233)

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