WHAT IS CHROMOTHERAPY?
‘Chroma’ is the Greek word for colour.
When we talk about colour, chroma is the word used to discuss the intensity of a given colour; its brightness in relation to white. For example, pastels possess a lower chroma than neon or fluorescent colours do; pastels being washed out versions of a given hue on the colour wheel and neon being amplified versions.
Albert Munsell published A Color Notation in 1905. He instructed his students at what is now the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, to organize colour according to a decimal system because he felt that names were too arbitrary a way of measuring the spectrum of colour we perceive. As you can see in the diagram below, the colour system is not a perfect sphere but has some irregularities. One thing Munsell noted was that light yellow has a chroma higher than light purple, meaning there is more chromatic possibility in colours which are closer to white (or ‘highly transmitting’) in hue (on the spectrum, red to violet) and value (light, or white, to dark, or black), irrespective of how they may appear to possess similar chroma.
My studies on colour evolved organically as a result of my art practice and were intensified during an internship working for a textile artist in the Netherlands. At the studio were the writings of Rudolf Steiner. In reading his writings on colour, I discovered anthroposophy (the idea that humans possess inherently or intuitively the knowledge of the natural world and that we are in harmony if we choose to open ourselves to it). Steiner writes of colour as an everyday magic central to being. All that we perceive has colour because of the light which shows it to us. Colours change with the light, but we can as a species at least acknowledge that some phenomena are blue, others are yellow, etc. Colours exist, we exist, all is right in the world.
Colour theory, both of the German anthroposophic and the Ayurvedic varieties (the only ones I can claim any familiarity with; studying colour will happily be a lifetime project) goes further than just to assert the existence of colour. It purports relationships between colour and feeling, colour and the physical body, colour and psychology. Those familiar with the Ayurvedic chakra system will recognize that it follows the UV light spectrum we perceive (red-violet).
There is no orthodox system of colour.
Various doctrines exist and can be considered. However the feelings reported have commonalities and those commonalities interest me. Why is yellow associated with a feeling of energy and optimism? Why do people say blue is serene but that it can also transmit a feeling of solitude? Red is linked to sexuality (although orange is the colour associated with reproductive organs in Ayurvedic medicine) and to survival (it is the base colour we perceive in the spectrum of light) and it is tied to the legs and also the pelvic region. Violet, the highest colour in the spectrum, is supposed to bring one into contact with universal values; purple was the colour of royalty, perhaps as a means of legitimating power, perhaps because over time it came to represent power to the viewer/subject.
White reflects outwardly all colour which touch it (white light contains all the colours); black absorbs but does not reflect colour, it is the absence of colour.
I know someone who won’t wear black on her body, she finds it inauspicious. However black clothing offers a strong silhouette because the shape of the garment is what becomes most noticeable rather than the hue. Wearing black is also said to strengthen another colour worn with it, for example a blue pendant will appear brighter against black than it will against white. Its chroma is higher in relation to black.
I am interested in the therapeutic as well as aesthetic value of colour; to be able to harness the power of colour to heal and balance and provide positive experiences. I use a lot of colour in my work and studying its potential is pushing my colour sensibilities in new directions.
You can view my work at www.nicoleaimeedurocher.com