Friday, November 2, 2012


Chartreuse is a  toxic color. As the midpoint between yellow and green on the color wheel, it can be found abundant in nature, nonetheless, upon seeing it  I defy anyone to think of foliage before hazardous waste. Chartreuse gets its name from the French liqueur of the same name. Chartreuse, the liqueur, is made from 130 herbal extracts and it is this, which gives it its distinctive green color. The liqueur itself is made by monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery, which is located in the Chartreuse Mountains, France. So, from idyllic, leafy, natural, alpine origins this particularly pungent, violent green drink is born.

The drink -packed with a punch- has been said to inevitably lead to a relationship with color for its taste, so complex, leaves one grappling with words to pin point its uniqueness. Words are not enough. Its uniqueness is as one off as the precise color its name has been adopted to describe. “Brideshead Revisited”, a novel by Evelyn Waugh, which was written during the second world war, looks back nostalgically at a past that was filled with luxury and gluttony- at that time Chartreuse was drunk. The characters Anthony Blanche and Charles Ryder, two privileged Oxford Alumni, drink the drink, an imported extravagance. They describe the heady experience and the complexity of the drink, through comparing it to color. This experience of inebriation mirrors the sensuous experience of descending/ falling into color.  Anthony mulls over the drink, stating, "Real G-g-green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swallowing a sp-spectrum."

This association with danger and the toxic that the liqueur holds means that in its traditional form (non-web color) it is used as a color to symbolize warning. Hence, it is used on many contemporary fire engines as opposed to a traditional red. This is due to the fact that it is in more striking and unnatural a color than red, this makes it stand out as foreign in any environment. Chartreuse the web- color is precisely 50% green and 50% yellow- this makes it a tertiary color on the RGB color wheel. Hence once again, despite its natural origins, the legacy of the herbal green drink has lodged itself as one of the principle colors of the artificial, technological environment. A place miles from the mountain ranges of France.

No comments:

Post a Comment