LA VIE EN ROSE

Sebastià Martí

Barcelona, 2023

A collection of watercolours of large scale and complimentary drawings, all in pink. Exhibited in the MUTUO gallery and The Gallery by LASTCRIT, in the centre of “Soho” Barcelonés.

Over the years I have come to look at my life (and forgive the metaphor which I think is necessary in this case) as a stroll through a sort of forest in which the sensations produced by its elements change constantly; from terror and the most depressing panic, to love so pure as being suspicious; from egoism and exhibitionism to heartbreaking sadness; from the humor that misses laughter through the awareness of the passing of time; from the unconscious, dreamlike fantasy, which partially lives through nights and days, to the conscious imagination, which produces non-existent worlds; from sick and disgusting fe- elings towards lust sought after, and especially, towards lust that is not.

The metaphor of the forest allows me to give meaning to this mixture of sensations. If I squint just enough, a set of slimy, trypophobic, attractive and repulsive shapes appear and surround me, altogether, writhing among themselves, sprouting here and there wi- thout logic.

When one is affected by aesthetics, the environment, real and imaginary, exerts a strong influence on the way we encode and represent sensations and feelings. This exhibition is an (accompanied) walk through my forest.

Despite its attractiveness, pink is, paradoxically a colour which does not exist. The colour does not form a part of the light spectrum, that is, there is no pink light as such, with a specific wave frequency : it is simply how our brain interprets the combi- nation of red light and violet light. As a pigment it cannot be obtained directly from any natural source, whether it be an animal, vegetable or mineral source. To achieve this colour one would need to mix red and white, or dilute red in water. Moreover, until the 17th century the word “pink” did not even refer to a colour, only the flower that would end up giving it its name.

But the rose is a fiction in another sense. As colour historian Michel Pastou Reau says, colour is not only a natural phenomenon, but also a complex cultural construct, a vehi- cle for the transference of social codes:

“There is no transcultural truth in the percep- tion of colour […] It is society that ‘makes’ colour, defines it, gives it meaning.“ Leaving aside the white/black binomial, pink is probably the colour with the strongest social connotations, one of the favourite classification and control mechanisms of heteropa – triarchal societies. In its different shades (each one adhering to a function), the rose is still mostly associated with a conception of stereotypical and retrograde feminini- ty, defined in contrast to supposedly masculine values —delicacy vs strength, frivolity vs seriousness, sensitivity vs hardness, seduction vs domination…—and even today it works as an effective taboo to preserve this construction of gender.

The idea of pink representing femininity is completely arbitrary, and in fact it has a relatively recent history. It began to take shape during Romanticism, when pink began to be associated with negative connotations, such as sentimentality or lightness, and would end up culminating after the Second World War with the well-known “blue for boys, pink for girls” formula, created as an advertising strategy to sell more children’s clothing. The use of light blue and light pink in baby clothes had begun during the previous century, when the first chemical dyes made it possible to colour garments industrially, but for a long time there was no dominant rule about which gender eachcolour corresponded to. We had to wait until the 50s for pink to become the undisputed brand colour of girls’ products. From then on, the imagination of the feminine in the West would inevitably be dyed pink.

“Thinking means resisting the dominant ways of representing the world,” wrote the political scientist Michael J. Shapiro. Since the 70s, different movements and groups have challenged the normal interpretation of pink with a subversive and emancipa- tory will. We find a vindication of this colour in the rabid aesthetics of punk, in the gay and feminist activism, or even in millennial fashion, less respectful of traditional gender models. To this we must add the proposals of countless artists, designers and even pop icons. Different causes united by the same slogan: we must put in crisis the conventional way we see pink.