DirectorHenry Chancellor
One line synopsisOne of a series on the history of painting techniques, with interviews with contemporary artists and reconstructed scenes from earlier times: Scottish-born Londoner, June Redfern (b.1951), and her use of colour.

Plate of mixed colours, splashes of different colours on canvas, paint tubes, painting. VO says "Artists have always treated colour with caution. Its powerful but unpredictable effect on our emotions makes it difficult to control. How painters have harnessed its energy is a story of endless invention and discovery. Sometimes the masterpieces of colour are so resonant that they can even haunt our dreams’." June Redfern, a Scottish painter living in east London. VO says the colours in her paintings are often drawn from old masters. Examples of her painting. Redfern in a taxi, beginning a trip to Venice to visit her favourite paintings. Redfern VO says she’s going to look at the Titian Assumption for its colours, and do a lot of painting. Venice from the lagoon. Redfern taking photographs from a boat on the canals. Her VO comments on the colours of buildings, etc. Redfern carrying her equipment to the place she wants to paint. Redfern painting. Her VO comments on the colours and everything else she can see. VO points out that she is making a record of the colours and shapes that will be the basis "of something more ambitious" when she gets back to London. Redfern in a boat with art historian Paul Hills. He talks about the buildings "rising out of the water" and of the colours and their reflections, particularly the reflections seen under bridges which he believes inspired painters like Veronese and Titian. Redfern and Hills looking at and discussing Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, (Assunzione della Vergine or Pala dell'Assunta) (1516–1518) in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. They are particularly taken with the qualities and varieties of the red colours. Reconstruction of mediaeval fresco painters at work; VO says these were the first to use colour "on a grand scale" but were forced to work within strict limits. The painter drawing his design on wet plaster and adding colour. VO points out that, as the colours were absorbed into the plaster, there was no room for improvisation; everything had to be planned out in advance. Furthermore, the artist’s contract stipulated how much of each colour he could use. Reconstruction of artist grinding blue pigment from lapis lazuli (ultramarine). The ground stone kneaded in a linen ball in water. It would be reserved for the most important parts of a painting. More pigments; map showing where some of them would have come from, including the Turkish "carmine red" made from crushed beetles. Reconstruction of Titian working on the Assumption, layering his colours (glazes) and thus subtly altering the tones. He also mimicked Venetian light, allowing colours to reflect onto other colours. Redfern’s house in London. She looks at the paintings she did in Venice but finds the colours don’t look as they did originally. She sets up a canvas already prepared with a white undercoat that will brighten any colours she puts over it, and starts painting. Hers VO talks about the work in progress and how she feels about it. Part of her technique is to throw turpentine at the canvas in order to keep the paint as runny as possible; she also uses paint straight from the tube as she finds it more intense. She views the painting from outside her window.

Mixing oil paint – pigment, oil and wax – by hand and mechanically. Reconstruction of mediaeval studio where paints are being put into pigs bladders for storage. The nineteenth-century metal tube which superseded them; reconstruction of painter leaving his studio to work out of doors. This led to the possibility of Impressionism and other modern styles. Reconstruction of Claude Monet (who, as VO explains, "thought that if you looked hard enough at Nature, you’d see only colour") painting in a rowing boat. Some of his many paintings of water lilies. Redfern looking at her painting. She explains that she felt that the colours were "making the mood of the picture quite violent", and that she’s after something softer. She continues to paint. Her VO suggests that her paintings evolve and that she discovers things in them as she goes along. She expresses her irritation with it by throwing something at the canvas. Paint tubes. Reconstruction of Vincent van Gogh at work on The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles (Le Café de Nuit, Place Lamartine, Arles) (1888). VO says that the idea of using bold colours to express strong emotions began in the nineteenth century; van Gogh hoped that his clashing colours would express his violent distaste for the café. Redfern completing her painting. Her VO explains that her work expresses feelings; she comments on her feelings for Venice. She talks as she paints: colour is "a very psychological thing". Venice scenes. VO talks about the work of Mark Rothko as "pushing to the limits" the attempt to "reflect feelings through colour". Examples of his work, originally intended for the Four Seasons restaurant, New York, in the Tate Gallery, London. VO says that Rothko wanted the viewers to feel claustrophobic because he didn’t like the restaurant. Redfern and her painting, though she’s not sure it’s entirely finished. She says she has been trying to get the feel of Venice, with the shifting light and water, as well as make a painting that is harmonious and full of well-being. Credits.

Production companyWindfall Films
Running time29 minutes
Full credits

With thanks to Paul Hills,
Bridgeman Art Library,
Yale University Art Gallery,
Tate Gallery, London,
Michael Harding at Atlantis,
Malvern Hostick.
Narrator Andrew Sachs;
Photography Patrick Ducal,
Graham Martyr;
Sound Nick Stocker;
Music Peter Howell;
Dubbing Mixer Bob Jackson;
Titles and Effects The Moving Picture Company;
Digital Effects Artist Mark Stannard;
Videotape Editor Tamer Osman;
Design Team Dominic Roberts,
David Hill,
Sophie Seebohm,
Anna Young;
Motion Control Camera Damian Davison;
Researcher Maxine Levy;
Production Manager Aleid Channing;
Consultant Robert McNab;
Executive Producer for the BBC Alan Bookbinder;
Executive Producer for the Arts Council of England
Rodney Wilson;
Film Editor Sean Mackenzie;
Series Producer Ian Duncan;
Produced and Directed by Henry Chancellor.
A Production by Windfall Films for BBC and The Arts Council of England.
© BBC & The Arts Council of England MCMXCVII.

Film segmentColour - ACE351.2
Colour - ACE351.3
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