AN OCHRE TIGER

 

An ochre tiger. 114 x 146 cm. 2012. Uffe Christoffersen

The skin of the tiger is mainly yellow ochre with white areas on the belly and head. Then there are the characteristic black tiger stripes lying in great swathes round the body. For several years I have studied the earth colour ochre, as I consider that this colour comes closest to the natural colour of the tiger’s skin.

In the great ochre pits of the south of France one can see a graet range of colour tones, stretching from the pale pink, over greenish, yellow and orange tones, to the deepest red and dark purple – caput mortuum. the word ‘ochre’ is presumed to come from the Greek ‘ochros’ i.e. pallid or pale yellow – a slightly incorrect name because of the ochre colours great strength of colour. The raw material, which is mainly of clay coloured by yellow, red or reddish brown iron [forbindelser], occurs in smaller or larger concentrations all over the world. They can vary considerably in colour – for example from the yellow or yellowish brown of Italian Terra di Sienna, to the red or reddish brown Spanish ochre. The colours can also vary greatly not only between the geographical locations, but within the individual local occurrence.

The strong sunlight which falls on the yellow or reddish yellow banks lights up brilliantly and contrasts vividly with the cerulean blue of the sky. The dark green pine trees that grow in these areas are covered in a fine ochre dust, which is constantly whirled up by the wind, so that it almost blankets the natural colour characteristics of the vegetation. But mainly it is the richness of nuances in the ochre material itself which is important and it is a great inspiration for me in my painting.

The ochre colours can in sunlight nearly compete in intensity with the synthetic yellow, orange and red colours, while in theshade they become subdued yellowish brown colours. In the same way the tiger’s golden brown skin lights up in the sun, while it can converge with the surroundings because of its combination of stripes and subdued tones. Here is indeed a contrast which suits this temperamental beast down to the ground. There is a difference between what you see and experience in nature and what you feel as a painter in front of your easel and have to convert these often contradictory ideas or feelings into pictures. You have to get inside the material itself and in that way find out what you really want to do.

The way I use earth colours is an attempt to use them as one sees and perceives them in nature in different lights. Through systematic research I have throughout the years discovered a way to compensate for the weaknesses that occur when the paint comes into the studio, in the form of a tube, from where it can be squeezed out as a brown substance on to one’s palette. At the Academy of Art in Copenhagen it was forbidden to mix the cheap earth colours with the very expensive cadmium paints. We were supposed to either paint with earth colours or the spectral colours, and not mix the two systems together.

The three well-defined earth colours I use are yellow ochre, raw Sienna and red ochre. To increase the intensity of the ochre colours they have to mixed with a related pure colour. A yellow ochre has to be mixed with a warm yellow cadmium colour, a raw Sienna has to be mixed with cadmium orange, and the red ochre with a light cadmium red. White is added in the amount you desire depending on how light the colour is to be. On the other hand a mixture of a colour with a different colour value and an ochre colour will not be suitable in this connection. Instead of increasing the ochre colour’s intensity it would transmute it into a different colour completely.

If you try to mix lemon yellow to yellow ochre, the green of the lemon yellow will dissipate the warm yellow in the ochre colour, in the same way as mixing a warm yellow cadmium colour with a red ochre will turn it into a more orange tone, and therefore change it in a different direction than was desired.

Besides this it is absolutely necessary to use the purest pigments mixed with a suitable [bindemiddel] to achieve the desired results. With these colours which stretch from being subdued and passive, on a sliding scale to being highly active, it is actually possible to paint a tiger in its different temperaments. Every stage which a wild animal can be in. Tigers fighting, playing, copulating, hunting and consuming their prey, etc. At the same time it affects oneself, so that the inner powers that control the painter’s instincts are released. They are powers of nature akin to those that control the instincts of the animal of prey.

Several years ago a French psychiatrist visited my studio. He mentioned that my tiger paintings did not actually depict animals but people.

Uffe Christoffersen

www.uffechristoffersen.net

 

Ambiguity…

 

 

www.uffechristoffersen.net

At the moment I am working on a tiger’s head. It snarls and spits at one. With its jaws open. It is making a signal.

It has its eyes closed.

But there is also a smile, even though it is ambiguous.

An ambiguity reflects the tiger’s character.

Once I was visited in my studio by one of my friends, a French psychiatrist. No just any psychiatrist. He is among other things a great admirer of Jean Dubuffet’s art. He looked at my animal pictures amicably. After a while he looked at me and said, “Uffe, you don’t paint animals at all. Has nobody ever told you that you have been painting human beings?”

Maybe he is right in that I search to find the balance between the presence and the absence of various characteristics.

Ochre

Close to where I live there is an ochre pit which has been famous from olden times for its rich seams of ochre – a material whose use as a colour pigment goes right back to the Ice Age cave paintings in the south of France and north of Spain.

I am always inspired by ochre in my painting. The strong sunlight which falls on the yellow or reddish-yellow slopes makes them light up so one imagines that they consist of cadmium yellow or orange. The slopes make a vivid contrast to the cerulean blue of the sky. Dark green pine trees grow all over the ochre pits, and they are covered in a fine layer of ochre dust which is whirled up constantly by the wind, so that the natural colourings of the vegetation are almost lost.

But first and foremost it is the richness of nuances in the ochre material itself that makes such a strong impression. I have found at least 15 different yellow and red nuances.

One day I found a specially shining yellow colour and as there was enough of it, I decided to use it to plaster the walls of the house with.
I got hold of a shovel and drove my estate car into the ochre pits. Here I shoveled as much of the ochre as possible into the car and started the trip home. However I hadn’t got very far before the car gave out a scrunching noise and dropped down on its springs.
At my next trip to the mechanic I was told that the rear shock absorbers were completely shot – “You must have been carrying something very heavy,” he said.

In future I will only collect enough ochre for my painting.

 

Ochre tiger. 114 x 146 cm. 2012. www.uffechristoffersen.net

RED OCHRE

I live in the Southern of france where there grow lots of wine. It is very dry in the summer, and lots of the other plants are almost yellow. But the wine is still green, because they have roots which goes fare deep into the ground. (Almost 25 meter)  It grows in a soil which have the color of  red ochre, and the contrast of the red and green,  is very beautiful each day to look at  🙂

I have just updated my homepage with a lots of new photos from the nature here in the south of France and paintings I am working on : www.uffechristoffersen.net

The Tiger and the Snake.

OCHRE

(click on images to enlarge)

The Tiger and the Snake. 73 x 92 cms. 2007

color inspiration

 

Roussillon Web Gallery

 

Ochre

 

 

AN OCHRE TIGER

 

 

The skin of the tiger is mainly yellow ochre with white areas on the belly and head. Then there are the characteristic black tiger stripes lying in great swathes round the body. For several years I have studied the earth colour ochre, as I consider that this colour comes closest to the natural colour of the tiger’s skin.

In the great ochre pits of the south of France one can see a graet range of colour tones, stretching from the pale pink, over greenish, yellow and orange tones, to the deepest red and dark purple – caput mortuum. the word ‘ochre’ is presumed to come from the Greek ‘ochros’ i.e. pallid or pale yellow – a slightly incorrect name because of the ochre colours great strength of colour. The raw material, which is mainly of clay coloured by yellow, red or reddish brown iron [forbindelser], occurs in smaller or larger concentrations all over the world. They can vary considerably in colour – for example from the yellow or yellowish brown of Italian Terra di Sienna, to the red or reddish brown Spanish ochre. The colours can also vary greatly not only between the geographical locations, but within the individual local occurrence.

The strong sunlight which falls on the yellow or reddish yellow banks lights up brilliantly and contrasts vividly with the cerulean blue of the sky. The dark green pine trees that grow in these areas are covered in a fine ochre dust, which is constantly whirled up by the wind, so that it almost blankets the natural colour characteristics of the vegetation. But mainly it is the richness of nuances in the ochre material itself which is important and it is a great inspiration for me in my painting.

The ochre colours can in sunlight nearly compete in intensity with the synthetic yellow, orange and red colours, while in theshade they become subdued yellowish brown colours. In the same way the tiger’s golden brown skin lights up in the sun, while it can converge with the surroundings because of its combination of stripes and subdued tones. Here is indeed a contrast which suits this temperamental beast down to the ground. There is a difference between what you see and experience in nature and what you feel as a painter in front of your easel and have to convert these often contradictory ideas or feelings into pictures. You have to get inside the material itself and in that way find out what you really want to do.

The way I use earth colours is an attempt to use them as one sees and perceives them in nature in different lights. Through systematic research I have throughout the years discovered a way to compensate for the weaknesses that occur when the paint comes into the studio, in the form of a tube, from where it can be squeezed out as a brown substance on to one’s palette. At the Academy of Art in Copenhagen it was forbidden to mix the cheap earth colours with the very expensive cadmium paints. We were supposed to either paint with earth colours or the spectral colours, and not mix the two systems together.

The three well-defined earth colours I use are yellow ochre, raw Sienna and red ochre. To increase the intensity of the ochre colours they have to mixed with a related pure colour. A yellow ochre has to be mixed with a warm yellow cadmium colour, a raw Sienna has to be mixed with cadmium orange, and the red ochre with a light cadmium red. White is added in the amount you desire depending on how light the colour is to be. On the other hand a mixture of a colour with a different colour value and an ochre colour will not be suitable in this connection. Instead of increasing the ochre colour’s intensity it would transmute it into a different colour completely.

If you try to mix lemon yellow to yellow ochre, the green of the lemon yellow will dissipate the warm yellow in the ochre colour, in the same way as mixing a warm yellow cadmium colour with a red ochre will turn it into a more orange tone, and therefore change it in a different direction than was desired.

Besides this it is absolutely necessary to use the purest pigments mixed with a suitable [bindemiddel] to achieve the desired results. With these colours which stretch from being subdued and passive, on a sliding scale to being highly active, it is actually possible to paint a tiger in its different temperaments. Every stage which a wild animal can be in. Tigers fighting, playing, copulating, hunting and consuming their prey, etc. At the same time it affects oneself, so that the inner powers that control the painter’s instincts are released. They are powers of nature akin to those that control the instincts of the animal of prey.

Several years ago a French psychiatrist visited my studio. He mentioned that my tiger paintings did not actually depict animals but people.

Uffe Christoffersen

 

 

 

DECORATION 2006

The owner wanted the three painting to appear as one complete work, and the same blue colour to appear as a common thread in each painting. The office has three windows each of 16 sq metres looking out over the harbour in Odense. This gives sky and water a great effect on the light in the room.

The tigers were to be violent and aggressive and the office was to be charged with energy and exude power. You are meant to feel when standing in the room that it is the same tiger attacking you and that the three paintings should hang together, so that you cannot remove one without it being missing in the complete picture.

Tiger C. 200×300 cm.

Tiger B. 200×150 cm.

Tiger A. 200×275 cm.

View from the office over Odense harbour.

 

Tiger Frieze in Café Hack

In 1900 the Theatre Restaurant opened in a corner of Århus Theatre’s building. It was the architect Hack Kampmann who designed the rooms and the painter and sculptor Karl Hansen-Reistrup who completed a very long frieze consisting of wild animals as a fresco in the whole restaurant. The room has been put to many different uses during the last 100 years and this has been one of the causes of the degradation of the frieze. However a fragment 3 metres long by 1 metre high remains. This depicts a tiger with its gaze fixed on some vine RANKER with clusters of grapes at the top of the picture.

Café Hack has now been reopened, designed by the architect Mads Møller from C F Møller’s Architect Group, so that the bar is situated in front of a 15 metre long wall. The fragment of the old frieze is situated at the top left of the wall and it was my job to continue the frieze in a new interpretation, so that the old piece was retained and integrated in the new version, in a way that shows clearly which part is which. Some sketches and photos of Hansen-Reistrup’s animal frieze still exist.

They depict tigers and lions in harmonious union enjoying life and eating grapes. It is almost a state of paradise created to give the café room a distinguished style and create an idyllic mood. Zoologically no traces have ever been found of wild lions in Asia, nor wild tigers in Africa. It is absolutely impossible for the two animal kings, being equally strong, to tolerate each other – and by the way neither of them eats grapes!

Inspired by the combination of tigers and grapes in the café’s frieze I couldn’t help thinking about the Greek legend related by Plutarch about Dionysus (or Bacchus, the power of nature and the god of wine)

Plutarch explains that Dionysius was madly in love with an Asiatic princess, Alphesibée. One day when the princess was out walking with her companions, she caught sight of a large tiger coming towards them, which started to play. The tiger, who was Dionysius in disguise, quickly managed to separate the princess from her companions. He chased the beauty until they reached the River Sollax and she could no longer flee from him. The tiger offered to take the princess on its back, but jumped into the river with her and swam to the opposite bank….

They had many offspring and the river was named after the nymph and the tiger. It was called the Tigris. With this inspirational starting point I now had a motivation for painting the 15 metre long frieze with Karl Hansen-Reistrup’s remaining fragment integrated in the fable.

In the original frieze Karl Hansen-Reistrup has with natural ease used earth colours to paint the ochre-coloured animals, because most animals of prey are these colours, apart from the dark stripes or spots.

Earth colours and their use up through the ages have always fascinated me. The oldest paintings we know of are cave paintings created over 25,000 years ago. These spectacular animal pictures are painted with ochre colours in so powerful a style that even today they make a great impression on present day humans. Recently, not more than 30 kilometres from where I live in the South of France, subterranean caves have been found full of animal pictures. In one of the caves there is a long frieze with lots of lion /tiger heads painted with a single earth colour in a powerful calligraphic style. The name “ochre” is thought to derive from the Greek “ochos” meaning “sallow” or “pale yellow” actually rather a misnomer as ochre colours often possess enormously powerful colours. The raw material, which mainly consists of clay, coloured by yellow, red or reddish-brown iron compounds, is to be found in larger or smaller amounts all over the world. They can vary considerably, for example, from the yellow or yellowish-brown Italian Terra di Sienna, to the red or reddish-brown Spanish ochre. Actually the colours differ not only from geographical location to location but also within the individual location.

In the large ochre pits in this area a great variation of colour can be seen, from pale pink over greenish, yellow and orange nuances, to the deepest red and dark violet – caput mortuum. The strong sunlight which shines on the yellow or reddish yellow slopes causes them to shine brilliantly as a great contrast to the cerulean blue of the sky. The dark green pine trees that grow in this area are covered with a fine layer of ochre dust, which is whirled up constantly by the wind, so that it almost disguises the vegetation’s natural colour scheme. But first and foremost it is the richness of colour tones in the ochre material itself that is important and which inspires me in my painting.

In the sun the ochre colours can almost reach the same intensity as the synthetic yellow, orange and red cadmium colours, while they become subtle yellowy brown colours in the shade. In the same way the tiger’s yellowish brown coat shines in the sun, while it blends with the surroundings in the shadow because of its combination of stripes and subtle colours. This is in reality an interaction which suits this temperamental beast well.

One thing is what one sees and experiences in nature, it is something else completely when one is standing in front of the easel having to translate these often contrasting ideas or feelings into images. One has to penetrate into the subject matter itself and thus find out what one really want to do. Therefore I have started on the job in Café Hack with great enthusiasm, – a 15 metre long challenge with a built-in traditional fragment in earth colours.

The way I use earth colours is an attempt at using them as one sees them and experiences them in nature in different lights. Through systematic studies I have discovered a way to compensate for the weakening of the colours which occurs when the paint comes into the studio in the form of a tube, out of which a brown substance can be squeezed onto the palette. My experiments have included the theory of colour, pigments, fixing agents and undercoat colours.

 

 

If one studies the frieze from left to right one sees Karl Hansen-Reistrup’s tiger fragment as a starting point. To mark in a clear way the transition to the new part I have placed to the right of it a standing blue tiger, seen from the front as a vertical movement in the picture. Further to the left Dionysius can be seen as a tiger with Alphesibée on its back.

The red tiger in the middle of the frieze is on its way towards Dionysius looking back towards the other active tigers. If the Dionysius figure symbolises the artificial, the disguised, the theatrical, then this tiger depicts the observer which approaches the picture to see better and therefore to understand his fellow humans , – or tigers!

The five tigers in the right hand half of the frieze move in the picture in such a way that creates a figure of eight movement and represent the active and positive life-principle, as an echo of Bacchus’s festive amorous scene. The picture can also be studied from right to left, as on the far right of the frieze I have placed a large yellow tiger head facing left. The difference in size between this head and the other figures accentuates the space in the picture. It is coming out at you and welcomes you in a festive way. It lures you into the picture.

 

The room itself, which is decorated very tastefully, is dominated by a red ochre colour on the walls. Painted with a technique going right back to the Greek wall paintings (Encaustic), where one mixes melted wax into the colour pigment, which is then smoothed to an even, beautiful, living surface. The Romans later adopted this technique (Stucco lustro) which was used in the Pompeian wall paintings. This very beautiful and characteristic red colour (Pompeian red) gives a positive sounding board in the room to set off the various ochre colours in the frieze. These two colours interplay eminently, where the red surface is smooth and calm in contrast to the frieze which, being painted on canvas, has a more structured surface with different colour vibrations.

As the frieze is situated high up on the wall, I have allowed the animals to look diagonally down on the audience to created further contact. In this way it is my hope and desire that the people in the theatre café should experience something that is different and special for this place. For my own part I love to just sit and look at the picture and allow my thoughts to fly, and this picture gives one ample reason to do so, in my opinion.

Uffe Christoffersen.

 

….