Colour: Asger Jorn’s ‘universally human and animal phenomenon’

August 15, 2014


“In a society in which people live in mutual harmony and peace it is natural that the aesthetic or poetic element develops in extent and richness both in clothing and architecture as well as the other arts, just as it is equally logical that asceticism accompanies fear. We can simply establish that in cultures in which the people repress life they repress colours as well, and in periods in which the culture is ‘folk-ish’ there is a corresponding colourfulness.”


The above quotation is a translated extract from Asger Jorn’s Magi og Skønne Kunster (Magic and the Fine Arts), Copenhagen: Borgens Forlag 1971, p 77. It is the unaltered publication of a Ms. completed in 1948, originally entitled ‘Levende kunst’ (Living art). It appears in Graham Birtwistle’s (1986) Living Art: Asger Jorn’s comprehensive theory of art between Helhesten and Cobra (1946-1949), Utrecht: Reflex, p. 94.


All these pictures (taken from this government site – no support is implied for nationalisms large or small by my sourcing of these images) show some of the colourful cloths which festoon the interior of the Yezidi temple at Lalish. It is the custom to tie knots in the cloth while making a wish and to untie knots to grant others their wish.

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