Artist and technology, Martha Hipley, was recently interviewed by Carlo de Gaetano about her upcoming class, Color and Accessibility. Along with her journeyman’s approach to commercial digital products and conceptual art, Martha also writes and self-publishes An Artist's Guide to Computation, a newsletter of resources for creatives of all kinds who engage with technology. Martha has exhibited work at Haus der elektronischen Künst, The Museum of Human Achievement, and enjoys paintings and video games, and always wants to be making more of both.
In Color and Accessibility which begins 27. April, Martha and her class will explore how color can be used playfully and intentionally to build meaningful digital experiences that resist the bland uniformity of minimal design trends, centering visual accessibility as a priority in our creative process.
In your course presentation, colours are strongly linked to emotions. In your memory, what's your first emotional contact with colour?
One of my most vivid early memories, from when I was about 2 years old, was from watching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” with some older cousins and being terrified by the scene where paint thinner is used to destroy a character. It was such an awful, lurid shade of green, and I remember being afraid to touch anything green for weeks! My aunt and uncle had wall-to-wall green carpet in part of their house at the time (very 90s!) and as far as I was concerned I couldn’t step on it because it must have the same evil power as that green in the film. There’s a certain sympathetic magic to colour that feels really instinctual to me.
You enjoy video games and painting, are they influencing each other in your personal experience?
Video games really interest me as a medium because there’s a balance you have to strike between your aesthetic vision and what is actually possible in terms of the tools you want to use. Some games that I think are extremely visually successful definitely have a painterly quality, rather than just trying to photo-replicate the real world but with dragons. Breath of the Wild, for example, isn’t striving for extreme realism so much as this really romantic plein air feeling, and it feels so lovely to wander in that world as a result. Good paintings pack so much information and emotion into a single image, looking to painting for inspiration is a savvy way to make the most of the least pixels.
Exploring colour as a reflection of the natural world sounds exciting. Where do you look for inspiration when you work with colours?
Even living in a big city, I feel lucky to be surrounded by a lot of lush, natural colour that is so tangible and exciting and part of the culture. We’re at the end of the jacaranda blossom season here in Mexico City, it’s about 2 months of the streets being painted purple every day from the flowers falling and being crushed into the pavement by pedestrians and cars. Even wearing a mask, you can smell the smashed flowers as soon as you step outside, it’s such an extreme clash of nature and urban life. There’s this direct link between the natural world as subject and the image of the natural world made with pigments from plants, insects and minerals that feels really present here, particularly in traditional artisan crafts.
I like the idea of pushing the limits of image-making. Can you tell us a bit more about those limits today?
So many of the images we make today, even if we make them with analog media, are designed to be seen on screens. Even if you make an oil painting on canvas, the majority of people who see it will probably see it on their Instagram feeds, and they’ll all be on different phones and computers, with different types of screens with different technical limitations for displaying light and color.
On top of that, every social media platform has its own algorithms for image compression- the same jpeg looks different on Twitter vs. Instagram because they actually store and present the image differently. Thanks to all this, there’s a tendency to think about how to make something look just ok on every screen with the least amount of work, instead of pushing for a more intentional experience. Maybe you want to make an image look just as rich and exciting on every screen and every platform, or maybe you want to use a really extreme palette that will be more visually challenging to understand in a particular context (horror video games and Goya’s Black Paintings are great at this), but both require some investigation into how screens transmit these images to our brains.
Color and Acccessibility takes place 27. April - 25. May every Tuesday from 8 - 10pm CEST. To reserve your spot visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/color-and-accessibility-tickets-146605333499
22 April 2021