Red, Rouge, Ruby Fountain …

… Vermillion, Alizarin Crimson, Red Lead, Red Ochre, Venetian Red, Cadmium Red, Red Stallion, Volcanic Splash, Hot Paprika, Fire Cracker …


“If one says red (the name of a colour) and there are fifty people listening it can be expected there will be fifty reds in their minds, and one can be sure that all these reds will be different.” (Josef Albers, Interaction of Colour)

Red is like an old lover; we respond to it with love and hate in equal measure. Red, desired by the child of chaos: dynamic aggressive positive romantic fear evil commanding alert rebellious joyful fun danger drama violent madness pain power war warmth impatient assertive bold energetic eccentric hot loving romance lucky popular fiery feisty. “Red protects itself. No colour is as territorial. It stakes a claim, is on the alert against the spectrum.” (Derek Jarman, Chroma)

Cherries, strawberry wine, lobsters, London buses, letter boxes, fire extinguishers, traffic lights, the nose of a clown, poppies, rubbies, roses, berries. Manchester, city of red-brick; its success, a United dream, is built upon soft-cotton whiteness. Cottonopolis. Woven and spun, sent across the world, to the East, and made into rainbow coloured textiles.


There is no ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’ with red. It either is or it is not. You will or your will not.

Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. Delight or warning; pleasure or pain. Red evokes extreme emotions and sensuality. The boldest and most extravagant of the primary colours, red cannot be ‘made’; red makes others. We lock on to red, like the bull to the flag. We cannot forget red. If red was a man he would be strong-willed, arrogant, dominant. You wouldn’t resist him, but he would scorn your idolisation. Red, you’re a heartbreaker. “I see those lips, those summer kisses, those sunburnt hands, I use to hold …’ Red will always leave you, looking for new adventures; you cannot tie red down with blue hues. If you do manage it, he becomes purple. More enigmatic, more allusive.

‘Pink for a girl, blue for a boy’; until the early twentieth century it was actually the reverse: “That pink being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Pink, a softer lighter red, was deemed more masculine, with blue being whimsical, nostalgic, weaker – a girl’s colour. When Adolf Hitler ordered the classification of homosexuals, those deemed “curable” were sent to concentration camps and labelled with a pink triangle. Thus by this time, pink was associated with femininity. Pink, now adopted as the feminine, with its lustful edginess removed; pink is a safer red.

But red is the storyteller’s colour. Red Riding Hood’s cloak, Dorothy’s shoes, Marilyn’s lipstick; they all hang out in the Moulin Rouge or in the Red Light District. Black and red, the Devil’s palette; we are seduced by red. Karen couldn’t stop dancing in her red shoes:  “Dance you shall,” said he, “dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold, till your skin shrivels up and you are a skeleton! Dance you shall, from door to door, and where proud and wicked children live you shall knock, so that they may hear you and fear you! Dance you shall, dance!” Snow White took a bite from the lush red apple.

Red, you will be the death of me.



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