Colour therapy: John Pawson’s new book is a sight for sore eyes

Colour therapy: John Pawson’s new book is a sight for sore eyes

It turns out master of minimalism John Pawson also has a painterly approach to pigment. We first saw hints of such a trait in his first tome A Visual Inventory (2012) – a journey through the details, textures, spatial qualities that inspire him – but in the newly released Spectrum, the architect’s colour thesis is given the opportunity to explode.

Organised by hue, the visual library kicks off in the whites and light greys moving methodically through the entire colour spectrum, concluding theatrically with midnight blacks. It’s as if the strict privation of colour that typifies much of Pawson’s architecture – think of the London’s starkly greyscale Design Museum, or the concrete caverns of The Feuerle Collection – here gives way to blushing, staining, tinting expression.

146 Kings Cross London, by John Pawson, from Spectrum. Collection of John Pawson

Not just a sensory fiesta, there’s real photographic clout here. ‘Where others might sketch or make notes, my reflex is to reach for a lens,’ Pawson writes of his well-documented passion for image making.

Taken on a digital camera or an iPhone (Pawson has amassed an eager following on Instagram), each photograph represents a fragment from an individual project, or an everyday moment that happened to catch his eye. Readers are given an intimate look over Pawson’s shoulder, travelling with him through his hometown of London to far-flung corners. Dizzyingly, a memory of a mossy bank in Kyoto nestles next to a snap of forest-green bricks in Bloomsbury. Geography, subject matter and scale are eschewed in favour of one reductive, visually therapeutic organisational technique: codes of colour.

To celebrate the book’s release, Pawson will be in conversation with Phaidon publisher Emilia Terragni at the Design Museum on 28 November – a happy way to ring in the Museum’s first birthday in its Kensington home.

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