There are a handful of colours that exceed their role as adjectives and nouns….blue, black, grey, red or green for example. These colours carry a life beyond their more modest roles as chromatic definitions. Pink is without question one of these…to be politically pink is to carry the stain of socialism….yet were we in the “pink of health” this would be desirable. Of course the pink triangle has traveled from its harmful repercussions in Nazi Germany to being a defiant symbol of LGBT liberation.
Then there is the gender specificity that still seems deeply embedded in fashion and the stereotyping attached to sentiments such as Jayne Mansfield’s quote that “a woman should be pink and cuddly for a man”. Mylie Cyrus, whom I never imagined quoting, said “pink is an attitude” – though she may have got her vowels muddled and meant “punk is an attitude”, for which I would agree. Regardless, it seems that as Christian Dior believed “…pink will prevail”. Not only does ‘pink’ have this curious diversity of implications, Diana Vreeland said that “pink is the navy blue of India,” so it has divergent cultural specificity too.
No colour seems to carry the diversity of insinuation that pink does …it can be both perky and tragic, insipid and deeply sensuous. In the hand of Winston Roeth pink is a provocative, relentless sensation. It swells then cools, held steady by a deep border. Roeth’s paintings have a fundamentally decorous character, however in Tomislav Nikolic’s work pink is deliciously irreverent. Nikolic’s regular challenge to the confinement “taste” imposes seems at its most bolshie when he uses pink. It may be the interior of the most subtle atmospheric field, or it may be the extravagant treatment of the painting’s frame. The fact that Tomislav can make pink meditative at one moment and insubordinate the next shows the colour’s extraordinary character.
Leigh Martin and Jacqueline Humphries both use magenta pigments amidst a flurry of shimmery iridescence. Both seem determined to increase the visual speed of the painting – their works glisten with their leaner, uncertain viscosity. Martin’s colours flip and invert, appearing to have one character and then substituting another. What these chromatic inversions allow is for us to see the finest undulations and marks – to read a little of the tooth of the linen, to sense something of the process and the material. Colour is insinuated into their work perhaps more so than being the subject of their work. But in a cocktail of process and materiality, it is an irresistible ingredient.
In Thomas Ruff’s Nude, we find our way back to Mylie Cyrus. Pants down, Ruff’s images plays an ironically coy game of revealing and denial. His now famous series of pornographic images are indeed both pink and punk. Ruff manages to lure us into a ‘rose’ trap, one that relies on our voyeurism and desire. Some viewers feign disgust at being presented with a “blush” of pink on such a scale and in public but in the end Ruff’s images settle into an aesthetic zone that is curiously akin to Roeth’s. The pink swells and attracts but is held carefully in check by a formality and restraint that is sort of “navy blue”….
– Andrew Jensen