Colour was up for discussion at the Will Gompertz Fringe at the ICA. The concept of these events was to create a condensed festival with music, comedy, literature, art and performance happening on separate stages. It had a relaxed  ramshackle quality.  The mind-boggling colour changes promised using chemicals to be demonstrated by Dr Suze Kundu was replaced by a brave but unprepared stand up comedian as the scientist had come down with the norovirus. Some science was provided by the Festival of the Spoken Nerd who gave a mini lecture on how our brain mixes colours from light hitting just 3 receptor cones in our eyes into the millions of shades that we see and how some women can see millions more colours than everyone else due to an extra receptor. It is impossible to know if each of us sees the same object as the same colour and quite likely that we don’t. As an artist choosing colour so exactly that is an interesting thought to consider. Insects and birds can differentiate way more colours than humans with top colour mixer being a little shrimp.

David Batchelor was one of the speakers but seemed unsure what to talk about after telling us it wasn’t really understood how we see colour and  insisting that he wouldn’t end up talking about himself which of course we would have liked and so he cut his talk short.

David Batchelor

Alan Connor ran a quiz reducing a well known painting down to a few coloured pixels and then increasing the colours until someone guessed what it was.

ica_blog alan connor

Some people guessed very early on – they must be very familiar with the paintings. Maybe art historians or something.

Jonny Woo and Batty Lashes literally added colour to the evening in zinging yellow tights and wigs.

Jonny Woo

The previous week Icons had been the topic. First up was Matt Collishaw and this was to be the highlight for us but SouthWest trains let us down badly and we were an hour late, arriving just as he left the stage and passing him as we negotiated our way past Juergen Teller’s billboard sized photographs of a brightly lit Vivienne Westwood displaying her newly coloured pubic hair. Arresting images.


I didn’t go to the third event about money but did think the whole concept of mixing arts, science and comedy into one evening a good one. It provides fresh angles on a given theme.

From the spotlight to the flickering of candles illuminating still life arrangements of skulls, polished silver and glass at Blackheath Conservatoire for the Drawing Salon organised as a fundraiser to echo the days when the Salon first opened.

Blackheath crop

It is actually very hard to draw by candle light  – the flames burn into your retina forcing you to squint and look away. It was a hugely popular evening packed with people at easels and perched on stools board on knee to capture in charcoal the gleams and  shadows of the tableaux. There were life models, live music provided by the conservatoires musicians, silhouette cutting Victorian style, lots of wine and costumed tutors which made it quite a theatrical and mellow experience.

Entered a rose tinted world when 3D glasses that turn every point of light into multiple bright red hearts were provided for the audience during the Opera Up Close great kitsch performance of L’elisir d’amore at the Kings Head Theatre. Persuaded the usher to sell me a pair.


Saturated colours with all the heat of the African sun lit up the stage for Feast at the Young Vic. The staging was extremely clever, it was fast and bright and funny.


One character became another in a magical flash of light, digging deep into ancient rituals and transporting us through history at breakneck speed. Amazing.

feast 3

Thinking about how I use colour in my own work. I can’t pull myself away from the grayscale used in contrast to the synthetically bright.

A lot of my work comes back to this idea of breaking through the grey monotony of life to discover some vibrant fantasy world. But in fact I love grey, it is my favourite colour.

However, you can only have a favourite if you have the choice.