Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"Red Ahmar Surkh Kirmizi" by Marianna Shreve Simpson

"I love red" says Dr. Marianna Shreve Simpson, specialist in Islamic art, during her lecture at Dar al Athar al Islamiyah, Kuwait, on Oct 19th.
As she wore a red suit for the occasion, she could have gone beyond the kitsch. But she took the audience into the realm and the essence of red, where it came from, how it was used and a fascinating historic approach to Islamic art through a color.
Two ways to use red:  - pigment ( a source of color and ink suspended in a liquid used a layer of color)  - dye (color dissolved in leather or fabric to penetrate and form a bond at the molecular level)
An insect, the cochineal gave many civilizations the deepest red. Vernice was another insect producing the red. Cinnabar mineral provided the vermilion red...
In a condensed visual and informative listing, she went through many technical details, historical events. Across the economics and industry of the red, she traveled in the 11th century from the crops in Armenia, to merchants in caravans, to calligraphers in Baghdad, to silk weavers in Agra to the bazaars of Grenada, Cairo, Isfahan, Lahore.
"It is the color of power" she said, displaying on the screen "Suleiman the magnificent" in a red kaftan, surrounded by red.
"It is the color of love and desire" while she analyzed a Persian miniature.
"It is the color of violence, blood, war": she expanded on the duality of the color and its symbolism.
"It is the color to vocalize and punctuate the holy book" and she presented calligraphy pages of the Koran.

In the introduction, she referred to "The Perfect Red" written by Amy Butler Greenfield, an exhaustive tale of the origins and the evolution of the color throughout history.
In the conclusion, she quoted Orhan Pamuk in his book " My name is Red" :"God is the perfect red".
As a culmination point to reduce the color to its simplicity, she says:"We all share the same color of blood and it is red. In its universal association, Red represents life."


Unknown said...

It was a very interesting lecture and you summarized it superbly

sarah said...

thank you velma for your comment. Actually I missed a few linguistic explanation on the word red: She mentioned: ahmar in arabic, surkh in turkish, kirmizi in persian.
She then extended names of different reds: (crimson, terra cotta, vermilion, pink, carnelian, fuschia, ruby, scarlet...)
She added that in the Arabic language, there are 50 words to describe red. Too bad she did not make that listing; it would have been interesting to compare.

sarah said...

Correction: surkh is in persian and kirmizi in turkish.
sorry about the mix up