“If one says ‘Red’ – the name of color – and there are
fifty people listening, it can be expected that there
will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be
sure that all these reds will be very different.”
Josef Albers

Red is a colour that is made up of wavelengths and lies at the end of a spectrum.

It is a significant colour within Chinese culture. It symbolises good luck and is believed to ward off evil spirits.

In ancient China during the Han dynasty, between 200 BC to 200 AD, Chinese craftsmen created a red dye (lead tetroxide, ch-ien tan in Chinese) from the Madder plant to colour silk fabrics for gowns and to make what is now seen as traditional red lacquerware.

In the 20th century, red is associated with the colour of the Chinese Revolution of 1949, bringing the colour a sense of empowerment and optimism.

Historically, the colour red was associated with life, health and victory. Ancient Egyptians would colour themselves in red ochre, applying it to their bodies as a cosmetic, using henna as a colourant for their hair and as a natural nail varnish.

The colour red hasn’t always been connected to such positivity. The psychology of the colour red can be linked to anger, warning signs and danger, going all the way back to the red flag during the Middle Ages. The main purpose behind this was partly because red is the brightest of colours in the daytime, and it also stands out against any environment, such as blue sky and urban settings, which is why you tend to see the colour within the traffic light systems.

A colour attracting this kind of attention can also be applied in a positive manner; red is seen as a colour of love, linking the shade to the very human organ: the heart. It oozes warmth and sensuality and unites the most humbling feeling we as human beings can experience with one another.

This loving feeling can relate to the colour red and our sense of taste. Red fruits and vegetables are considered to be very flavourful and highly nutritious. Chinese food in particular is a feast for the senses. The colour, smell and taste are the three traditional aspects to describe Chinese food, whether it be char siu or the red bean filling of a dessert such as the mooncake. Red is highly prevalent within Chinese cooking.

The very essence of life – the haemoglobin in our blood, the substance that keeps us alive – delivers oxygen to the body tissues through the circulatory system. Red is in the soil that we tread upon.

As popular culture has us believe, in the very first Matrix film Neo is given the choice between taking the red pill (truth or reality) or the blue pill, offering him an insight into either the ‘real world’ or leading him into the very depths of the Matrix. If you had the option, which one would you take?

A colour can take on many guises and symbolic nuances that reflect our everyday contexts, scientific advances, and the world at large. How many ways can you interpret the colour red?

Written by Seetal Solanki at Ma-tt-er