Nikolai Tarkhov, a Russian painter who settled in France six years before the Revolution of 1917, and died there, impoverished and forgotten, thirteen years later, was in love with orange. Take Van Gogh, max out reds and blues in his palette, add a good measure of orange colour, and you’d get very close to Tarkhov, though not quite.
I guess I know why he loved orange. Perhaps, this is why we all love this colour. It is a very rare or temporary colour in nature. The sun becomes orange for the last few minutes of its daily existence above the horizon. A pumpkin turns orange when it is ripe and then it gets eaten. A tree gets orange before it metaphorically dies for the season.
Orange gives us an acute feeling of being alive right here and then. Orange is a pinch that wakes us up from whatever gloomy state of mind we may find ourselves occasionally.
If I was a writer, I’d write 50 Shades of Orange as a collection of erotic stories, in which people are preparing for the boring routine of having sex, but, after seeing something cute and orange, decide to order pizzas, change career, and vote out their president (I understand this will bring on a ban on the book in some countries).
Now, see for yourself. I made the photos yesterday, at a Tarkhov exhibition in Moscow, and I can assure you the real Tarkhov is even more intense than in these amateurish shots:
The fundamental difference between Tarkhov and Van Gogh is that Tarkhov wanted to introduce dynamism and movement in his paintings through both varying the length and intensity of his brushstrokes, and using colours that the human mind links up with the time dimension. We know orange is temporary, so our mind involuntarily registers the importance of appreciating and catching the moment that has already been captured for us by the artist, because we know that the orange moment won’t last.
The irony is that Tarkhov’s most famous or prominent paintings don’t have orange in them. Like this gargoyle of the Notre Dame in Paris.
As the observer gets perched up next to the gargoyle, all sorts of thoughts and ideas start pouring out. Get yourself comfortable, and try it for yourself.
PS If you missed the medieval story about friendship, love, betrayal, and nipples, it just may be the recipe for a great Sunday art & crime reading experience. It begins here.