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Praise for Spike Bucklow's 'Red'

last modified Feb 09, 2018 02:26 PM
Spike Bucklow's "Red" was placed on the American Library Association's prestigious 'Choice List' of Outstanding Academic Publications, 2017. A review in the Burlington Magazine (CLIX, 2017, p. 737) said it was ‘written by a research scientist but with the flair of a biographer’

The book considers artists' reds. It covers the reds that were used 35,000 years ago in ritual burials all the way through to the digital reds that are used today by contemporary artists. A chronological survey starts with natural reds - sourced from the animal, mineral and vegetable kingdoms - leading to the traditional reds that have been synthesised by, or for, artists from before the time of Christ. That chapter, devoted to iron ores, vermilion, minium and stained glass, is followed by one on the critical role played by red in the nineteenth-century chemical revolution. The twentieth- and twenty-first-century reds that the book looks at are the immaterial ones that shine out from TV and mobile phone screens.

The material (and immaterial) survey is followed by a consideration of the meanings that (mainly European) cultures have associated with the colour. This throws up three enduring themes - blood, earth and fire, each of which is examined in detail. The final chapter looks at the connections red, blood, earth and fire have with the idea of passion, with which the colour is almost universally associated. Included in the meaning of the word passion is an acknowledgement of suffering. The book ends with a meditation on the red of sunsets.

Dr Spike Bucklow is Reader in Material Culture at the Hamilton Kerr Institute.

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