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Interaction of Shapes and Colours

Exhibition Piece: The logo, or motif, of the Village College is that of a triangle, circle and square – each one in red, yellow or blue – the primary colours. This symbolises the link to Gropius and Kandinsky who were part of the Bauhaus movement.

Triangle - circle - square.

Blue - red - yellow.  

Which would you choose? 

Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) believed that certain colours and shapes complimented each other and had a psychological component conveying particular ideas or emotions.  His ground breaking theory of art was outlined in 1911 in his book 'On the Spiritual in Art'.  He tested his theory on Bauhaus students asking them to match the three elemental geometric shapes with the three primary colours and obtained a consensus of opinion as follows:

  • Yellow triangle      
  • Blue circle                 
  • Red square               

When asked for reasons why they had paired certain colours to certain shapes the general opinion was:

  • Yellow with the triangle because of sharpness and clarity
  • Blue with the circle because of spiritual connotations of wholeness
  • Red with the square portraying the earthbound and quotidian

The idea of colour-form association has become known as 'correspondence theory' but recent research has not replicated Kandinsky’s colour-form associations.  It has been suggested that Kandinsky may have had synaesthesia, the condition where sensations can be linked, for example form or sound with colour.  It certainly has to be taken into account that colour and form can elicit a response based on culture or learning, one example being the warning connotation today from road traffic signs with red triangles.

An intuitive response to colour and form, if it does hold any validity, is certainly attractive due to an ability to transcend cultural and language barriers.