Introduction to ‘A Walk Through Colour’
By Alexandra Loske
In 2007 my life changed dramatically: I had a child, was awarded a PhD scholarship and moved to Lewes, after 10 years of living in Brighton. The subject of my doctoral research was the use of colour in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. In the years that followed I lived a curious double life of raising a child in a town that was new to me and spending the time she was at nursery studying colour in one of the most colourful buildings in the country.
I wanted to learn about colour from people who used it every day and started visiting artists, most of them based in Lewes. Peter Messer’s studio in Paddock Lane is special, as the first thing you see when you enter it is a wall of colour: a floor-to-ceiling shelf unit full of jars of pigment, many of them vintage. Over the years I have learned much about colour from Peter, and he has told me stories about unusual pigments, and the artists who owned these jars before him.
Peter is a painter who tells very Lewesian pictorial stories with his colours, preparing small batches of egg tempera paint on a daily basis, whereas I use colour to explain the art and design ideas of the past. A ritual evolved, whereby I would walk over to Peter’s studio, ask him about certain pigments, choose some, take them away and use them in teaching and lectures, telling their stories in different places and contexts. Then, after they had been with me for a while I would take the jars back, lugging them through Lewes, replacing them with others, and so on. There is always some raw colour in transit between Peter’s studio, my house and other places. In 2013 some of his jars of colour even made it into an exhibition on colour history in the Royal Pavilion, and Peter came to visit them there, which seemed quite surreal.
I tend to map out Lewes according to colour now: Where do you get the best view of the lush green Downs, with glimpses of chalky white? Where are the glossiest black mathematical tiles? Where do painters live and work? Where can I find more colour? And Peter’s studio with the wall of colour that seems infinite – he says he is well aware of the fact the he will never use all of them and that they will probably be used by another artist in the future – seems to be at the heart of all this colour wandering.
I am immensely grateful to the very talented Catalina Balan and George Mind for making this film with me, and especially to Peter for giving his time, words and colours so generously over the years. I would like to dedicate this film to Robin Lee (1953-2010) who introduced me to Peter’s work and promised me that I would love living in Lewes. He was right.