I've been reading  the notes of Eugene Delacroix - the great French Romantic painter of the nineteenth century. There were some remarkable insightful comments into painting. One point he mentioned though that has stuck with me and came to me the other day when I was looking at a plastic beaker of all things. The cup had a  yellow which seemed to glow - partly due to its inherent translucency but also due to the half-tone of the  yellow inside the cup. It had a faded quality to its surface due to wear and washing but the tones held my gaze as the resonance of the colour yellow was amplified by their relationships - just the one yellow  would not have said " yellow "  as strongly. As Delacroix  wrote, the value of half tones to dominant colours is so important. He was a great colourist - all the more impressive as the gestures in his work never overpowered the colours they supported. No wonder he was so prized an artist by Matisse for his phrasing and colour (yet, poignantly, for his subject matter by Picasso).

These colour relationships are part of the internal dialogue of a painting. Colour can either cut through as a force in a work , or, occupy space as one . Cutting through means it has a direction - a start and an end; I often try to get 'across' a painting from one side to another  -  usually early on. It helps to assert a large scale from the off.

Colour needs to energise the area it cuts through or occupies.

These 2 forces - directional and occupying -  are married with the surface, it is this factor that introduces a third force - movement - toward and away from us, front to back, near to far. Controlling the surface is how we can temper this movement, though not to nullify any shift in the plane. (This is something I think the minimal painters sometimes miss - Just painting something flat does not mean it stays so. All colour has a spectral wavelength which fluctuates and handling this vibration to balance out the conflicting forces is what drives colour painting. Hans Hoffman  coined the phrase  - "push and pull".  His work often looked like it was literally doing that with slabs of colour butting up to one another, wrenching the surface forth from the -usually- gestural ground which he swabbed on energetically . Colour moves in more mysterious ways than this though and our eyes detect this movement on minute scales. Perhaps a glimpse of a glossier area or a more suede-like peach skin surface excites the eye as it apprehends these satisfying contrasts. One bounces light, the other absorbs. All these forces combine to produce a resultant presence. They must be controlled to work together. Observe the later works of the late Kenneth Noland where he actively courts these differences to attempts to imbue his work with the prized intimacy of a late Cézanne still-life

A dialogue continues after the work is made also. It can extend into real space where two paintings could be hung. An artist sees dialogues when paintings are propped up or hanging on studio walls, parts of works overlap others. Hanging an exhibition is an active dialogue between paintings and the room and wall space. Artists have worked actively with spaces to set up dialogues on huge scales. The Turbine Hall in the Tate is a classic example (though one with sadly few examples of real success as yet where the work shown tends to rely on theatricality - not so much a dialogue, more a monologue).

We see paintings at light speed yet when time is added into this equation, there are the dialogues that occur after seeing the work: the memories, the thoughts and reflections. Artwork cannot follow you home, but its resonance can set up seismic shifts in our psyches  - often covertly yet profoundly nonetheless. This can lead to unforeseen outcomes, new ideas, fresh stimuli - new points of reference to stimulate further creativity.

Dialogues exist between painters - think of  Monet and Pissarro, Picasso and Braque, or Matisse and Derain. I once heard someone say that happiness can be found when you find something to do that is bigger than yourself - these kinds of dialogue demonstrate this really well. Both artists know they are working in a seemingly similar way, but there is an unspoken force that compels them to do so, they acknowledge through their work that this  'work' is somehow possessing them and getting them to make it, they become almost slaves to the work - a true artist can work through this kind of gravitational pull and free themselves from the vortex that they must feel engulfed by at times, alas others are trapped in its pull and continue to repeat themselves in ever dwindling spirals of expression - dare I say Derain at this point or more contentiously perhaps Picasso, who lost a great deal of formal power post-cubism, relying on the monologue of theatricality (bet he would have been offered membership to  the Turbine Hall Club). I would add as a caveat though, his graphic work never dipped as his painting did (having that distance from the hand can at times act as a helping hand).

Dialogues permeate art, from conception through execution to presentation and beyond. Seeing great art is a communion with the past - we all look to the past at some point to seek inspiration. And we thus set up the warmest dialogue of all, responding to the work of another from another time. This is something that is unspoken but I believe a true artist courts this dialogue more than any other. I wrote in a previous blog that an artist at some point says 'enough' the work is now complete - somewhere the shoulders of a giant stopped twitching and calmness descended.