I visited the Orsoni colour library as part of my research in Venice. It's tucked away in Canareggio, and feels like you're knocking on the door of someone's house. We get a tour of the furnace, where they produce blocks and chunks of colour, flattened and melted and scored into to two-centimetre squares for mosaic tiles. Then there is the Colour Library. Thousands of unique colours and tones slotted into wooden shelved compartments, in an order someone understands.
The library of colour is beautiful. I take dozens of photos which are now lost in the bottom of the canal, a typical Venetian tourist problem to have on your last day in the city. I recorded the click-clickclick-click sound of the tiles being cut, and filmed the rhythmic scoring of slabs of blue glass.
We hung around for a bit after the others had gone. I thought about collections of colour. I thought about developing an obsession with colour, staging one. Someone I know studied with an artist who only wore one colour per year, and only painted with that colour, so it became a uniform. A good friend of mine at school dyed her hair green, (with varying degrees of success) and had green elastic bands on her braces. She had green stripy tights (stripy tights were in at the time) and a green coat and green skirts and green shoes and green tops and green cardigans. All different greens. I helped her paint her room green. She was obsessed with the Renaissance. Postcards of Orphelia and Venus and Marylin Manson nestled together like a salon on her lurid walls.
Last year when I was working in Venice I was lent the book 'Bluets' by Maggie Nelson. It's beautiful, I recommend it. It's her collection of memories, anecdotes and musings relating to the colour blue. She's 'fallen in love with blue'. There's a line which stuck with me- 'There is a colour inside of the fucking but it is not blue'. I think about assigning colours to sensations, words, numbers, feelings, memories. It comes naturally to some people, like the ones who see music. Imagine then, cataloguing, aligning, organising, making sense of these experiences like they are arranged here. What might that look like.
I think about chromophobia. Ideas for a text about an overwhelming and irrational fear of colour. I decide that the worst colour to be afraid of in Venice could be green.
There are barrels of irregular rocks organised by hue outside of the furnace. They look like precious stones. I pick one up, it fits pretty well in my hand and feels and looks like a sculpture. Turns out it's untempered glass that is the wrong colour, and will be melted back down again. I ask to keep it and they say yes but it can shatter at any time, noone could say when but it will certainly happen. They don't recommend touching it, moving it, dropping it, letting the pressure or temperature change around it, for fear it might explode. The man says it is dangerous like a bomb. I like it more for it's new and unpredictable presence.