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Colour and Effect

Colour and Effect
By Theo Gimbel

Any light, including public lighting, always manipulates a response. If it is well designed and based on deeper understanding, light will influence people towards better behaviour. Basically, light creates new ambiences and is able to change an environment, just as theatrical lighting changes the mood on stage.

Artificial illumination creates vast pockets of shadow; shadow areas challenge the mind and emotions. The colour of such shadows invites certain activities, which one could say are lured out of the emotions, and become urges. Undirected people are finally provoked into turning these urges into action. It would be quite a study to examine all night crimes in terms of light and shadow present at the scene of each crime.

Very fine degrees of a mixture of shades can change the meaning of colour to an individual. These meanings cannot be put into concepts, far less into words.

The complexity of each individual psyche ensures a very personal appraisal of colour and therefore it is not easy to make generalizations beyond what has been outlined above. However, through the many years of my research I can say that on the whole the following effects can be experienced. Colours impress children very strongly, both boys and girls, as they are very pliable.

A colour experienced at a very happy moment can remain a favourite for decades. Conversely, a bad moment associated with colour in early years can remain negative for an equally long time. The conscious acceptance of a bad experience can solve negative attitudes, however, and a 'bad' colour can become agreeable. Any experience, whether mental or emotional, can introduce itself into our health pattern and become a physical change, thereby altering our well-being. This can lead to disease as well as to health.

It has become fashionable recently to experiment with different colours in both the decoration and illumination of rooms. However, colour manipulation, which is applied through the intellect without taking into account the philosophy of the colour principles, will not work. The prison cell painted pink, for example, which is said to calm violent behaviour, has a very extreme backlash.

The biochemical structure is forced into an extreme order to which it is not normally subjected. Pink is nearest to magenta, the first colour that emerges out of ultraviolet. It promotes change, letting go, dissolving, and giving up. Out of these qualities comes the relaxing of violent behaviour. Afterwards, however, there is a backlash of intense rebellion and violence. So what have we achieved? The pink cell is not actually a colour treatment, it is an emergency action, and, like a bad chess player, we have not taken into account the ensuing moves of our opponent.

Man has a double nature: one is rational, logical, and orderly and creates reason; the other is intuitive, artistic, and playful and cannot be contained in strictly reasonable terms. We also have to take into account our nervous system: the brain has two halves, one mathematical (left side) and the other intuitive and artistic (right side). In our present educational system, far too much emphasis is still placed on the mathematical and logical side. We neglect the intuitive, which contains al the arts music, painting, drama, etc.

Many young people miss out at school, as they are not mentally suited to academic work. They become failures and end up with no place in society. As they become vulnerable to all the influences of the environment, they become increasingly at odds with a society they have failed to please and often turn to crime, especially in the deprived city areas. But ultimately, through this behaviour to society, they are saying, 'I am also here. Acknowledge me.'

The colour of light plays a vital part in improving behaviour. The perfect colour would be daylight equivalent full-spectrum, in other words blue light such as in daylight tubes. The incandescent lamp has one great advantage: it neither goes fully or nor fully on. The effect is a cycle between on and off that does not touch the extreme on either side.

Reams have been written; arguments have been proved and contradicted over the use of light in industry, commerce and entertainment. Yet deep down there is a feeling of what is right and wrong. This has been built into and passed on to our cell structure for millennia. This cell memory tells us that light is vibrating at a constant frequency, at such a high frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum that it goes into quintillions of vibrations per second. The finest of all human sensitivity can only recognize it as a calming, steady light that burns without interruption.

Any rhythm we put into this has an effect upon us. Therefore we must find out what should be the correct rhythm. Nothing can be perfected, but we do now have at our disposal the means to achieve much better lighting conditions. We could ensure that stress through lighting is at a minimum and that work and leisure can be experienced by way of colour at a calm and peaceful level. This will, in turn, improve work output, quality of work, and the elimination of errors, which can occur within seconds and take hours to correct.

The colour of light slips very quickly into the subconscious cell memory, whereas the colour in decoration stays with us mentally. These two can, and must, be used in conjunction with each other if interior design is to be successful. Since we have within us the complementary reactions of our brain functions, and since we are on the planet as men and women (i.e. two complementary energies), this principle of duality must be adopted so as to harmonize the environment and through it improve human communications. Very high illumination levels bring about non-communication among groups of people. So we should use light in a very subtle way, with a very carefully chosen colour and the well-considered decoration of living and work space.

Much research still has to be done before we can come up with a constructive design. Balance has always to be maintained, for harmonious intercommunication can emerge from it for the purpose of increasing life's benefits and for the sake of real lighting development, which will benefit all concerned. Professionals who are in charge of illumination should increase their understanding of what good colour can achieve.

This is an extract from Theo Gimbel's Colour Therapy Workbook and is reproduced by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Coypright [Theo Gimbel, 2004]