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Friday, 11 May 2018

Spotlight: “I needed colour”

  Image from the documentary 'I needed color'   

Jim Carrey, the actor and comedian, came out with a surprising documentary last year. Running for just 6 minutes, it shows him in his painting studio, with canvas and brushes. It introduces a side of Jim Carrey that we had not seen before, unless we had looked carefully: the person expressing their visions through their art, and growing with it. The short video has come to be known as “I needed color.
  The title is based on a line Jim says in it, as to why he took to paint, during “a really bleak winter in New York”. Notice what he does not say, but could have craved. He did not say “I needed escape”, “I needed music”, “I needed time”, “I needed friends”, “...destruction”, “...meaning”, “money”, “love”, “hope”.

‘Electric Jesus’ (detail) – Jim Carrey

In his case, “bleak winter” was somewhat metaphoric. The drab darkness and seclusion of that winter was also his soul and spirit, at a time of personal loss, anguish, uncertainty, and a search for meaning. The bleakness was inside as well as out.

‘Eva’ - Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey has become known, since, for many public displays and interviews in which he describes peace, purpose, connectivity of all things, and the liberation that he feels through the grand absence of any significant meaning to most aspects of humanity’s endeavours and distractions. Nothing matters.
  So why did he need “colour” specifically?

‘Hooray We Are All Broken’ - Jim Carrey

His paintings depict his concepts quite overtly.
  Of ‘Hooray We Are All Broken’ he says "So-called reality is energy and color creating forms that rise out of nothing. Broken figures dancing for each other filled with pain and polkadots, sharing one frequency, yet believing they are separate." With such a description we can wonder whether it was the image or the words which came first. It feels as if the verbal concept birthed the painting, as an illustration of the worded thought. Words feature in many of Jim Carrey’s works. His paintings are very literal.

‘Prison of Becoming’ – Jim Carrey

The concepts Jim illustrates, such as spiritual connectedness, can also be expressed through watercolours of nature, or a minimalist abstract, however in such cases any message is typically down to personal interpretation.

When considering a watercolour of a flower, one could easily say “It represents new life” or “solitude” or “That’s pretty”, which all relate to connectedness. However with Jim’s huge bright paintings, like billboards, it is clear there is an intended message. Jim’s painting, for all its introspective origins, is evangelistic. The paintings are rather like stained glass windows. [Please leave a comment below if you have read this far. Just commenting “read” will do. Thanks.]
  We could see this as a performance-like way of approaching the audience, derived from his acting career and stand-up comedy beginnings. However there are many non-thespian painters who take a similarly blatant approach to their subject matter.

The Disasters of War (one of 80 Etchings) - Francisco Goya

Goya’s expressions of wartime are deliberately explicit, like shocking news headlines, and Banksy was always much more of a recluse than an actor.

Banksy, 2013

With Jim Carrey’s paintings we see how encompassing these notions are to him: the absence of personal immateriality, within a cosmic force of love, is everything in his art, as it is in his speech. Subtlety can only exist when there is a broader context in which to couch an issue. When one’s theme is everything, the message fills the canvas. It shouts. With every brush stroke, there is nothing else to paint.

‘She’s The Bomb’ - Jim Carrey

  Carrey’s expressed desire for colour can remind us of similar times when people wanted to express peace and spirituality. “Hippy” movements from the 1960s used colour to bring brightness and love into an austere world, and to lighten those whose souls manifested fear and violence. The visual art of peace movements often included flowers, as invocations of the sharing equilibrium found in nature, in which there is a space for everything, including finding beauty in caring for the delicate.


  That perspective has changed, and been somewhat lost, with social and scientific emphases increasingly on competitive aspects of nature. Current interest in nature - in education particularly - is often on Darwinian natural selection and its dependency on strength and adaptation, which thereby endorses a state of perpetual conflict. One can wonder whether this is healthy. It feels time to reclaim the harmony aspects of nature.
  Since the 1960s there are evidently more complex and global issues presented to us through multiple means of communication, and the target has shifted - then it was war, organised and mostly overt. Now the dangers, in peace time, are less obvious. Threats to us as individuals and a species are more subtle. They include boredom and loss of identity through automation. Flowers still convey peace and love, but when we look at Carrey’s art, and that of many modern artists, the dialogue is more complex than “war is bad”.

‘More More More’ - Jim Carrey, from the Sunshower exhibition

  So besides the doom and gloom, what do Carrey’s paintings celebrate? I think it is that we do not exist in isolation, and barely exist at all. Which is worth celebrating, as it empowers us to act as individuals for a shared good. Jim’s evangelical, messianic message is essentially the same as much religious advocacy: without the cosmic one-ness we are nothing, and there is redemption for us through acceding to that greater collective existence. 
  We hear the same evangelistic advocacy when we are told that schools must capture the hearts and minds of 8-year-olds to want to do engineering, if the future workforce is to be suitable for a more automated industry. When governance and science express such targets of “education”, heads nod obediently, yet mainstream media ridicules and alienates the advocacy of freedom expressed by those such as Jim Carrey whose aims seem far more liberating and honourable to the individual and to the collective.
  Or you can paint, as Jim also does, because it makes you happy.

If you write all this down, as I have, it is far less interesting and enjoyable than looking at paintings, and feeling how they convey these concepts through vibrant colour and beauty. And it is far less joyful than creating such paintings.
  When writing this, or thinking about it, one quickly concludes... “We need colour”.
Photo from Jim Carrey’s website,

I write these Spotlights on topics that strike me as interesting. The point is to interest you. If there is a topic you would like explored from this kind of perspective, contact me via and your topic could be another Spotlight.
    Cheers y’all.
           Love, life, and LAS.

Further info and sources:
   ‘I needed color’ documentary :

One-off Chance to see Art Exhibition at The Hurst

The Hurst at Clunton houses an excellent collection of art, curated by Jo King (who gave us our talk last night on Understanding the Art Market). On Sunday 13th May, from 2 to 5pm, the house and grounds are open to the public. This is a rare opportunity for anyone interested in contemporary art. Full details in the leaflet below - click to enlarge.