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Taking your first steps into higher education

3.2 Analysing colour

The previous section on colour contained a number of new technical terms. In the following activity, you will consolidate your understanding of these new terms by analysing the use of colour in Chris Ofili’s No Woman No Cry.

Activity 5  Analysing the use of colour in No Woman No Cry

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Look at No Woman No Cry (Resource booklet [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   Plate 4) and make notes on the way colour is used in the artwork.

Use the questions in Table 2 to help you with your answer. You could copy the table out if you like. Do not forget to consider the relationship between techniques and effects in terms of:

  • a.the mood conveyed by the colour in the work
  • b.the possible use of colour to control the way you read the work.

Table 2  Analysing the use of colour in No Woman No Cry

QuestionTechnique     Effect    
1 Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used?                                                                                 
2 Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other?
3 Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? 
4 In what way is dark and light colour used?

Comment

How did you get on? My own response to this activity appears in Table 3. As you read my response, bear in mind that it is not the ‘right’ answer and that your own conclusions about the use of colour in No Woman No Cry are equally valid, as long as you have made links between techniques and effects.

Table 3  My analysis of the way colour is used in No Woman No Cry

QuestionTechniqueEffect
1 Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used?Quite a restricted palette.Gives a natural feel to the artwork. Keeps the spectator focused on the central figure.
2 Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other?Contrast between the blue eye and the yellow background.Gives depth and moves the spectator’s eye around the composition.
3 Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa?Mainly warm. The red and yellow around the woman’s neck looks especially warm, even hot.This gives a comforting, positive feel to the artwork.
4 In what way is dark and light colour used?

Subtle colour value shading is used in depicting the woman’s head, neck and body.

Mid to light colour values tend to dominate the painting, notably the bright reds, yellows and oranges.

The main value contrast is between the depicted figure and the yellow background, and between the tears and the rest of the painting.

This helps to model the figure, giving it solidity and making it look realistic and natural.

This gives the artwork a positive and warm feel. The bright red on the woman’s chest and her red lips are focal points which draw the spectator’s eye.

Attention is drawn to the tears and the woman feels separate from the background. There is little or no drama or contrast.

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