Friday, August 22, 2014

In search of genuine Ochre / Spain

The Traveling Colour Book and Laura Daza, had the chance to travel to Monstserrat, Spain near the city of Barcelona in search of red ochre for the 'Colour Provenance' project.

 First ever used pigment

Etymology: ochra rossa
Source: mineral 
Chemical name: iron-oxide rich earth
Colour range: red-orange-yellow

Collecting red ochre was a playful and learning experience; understanding its provenance where it comes from, how it looks like, why this geological formation, feeling its texture; smelling its aroma, is an experience that I highly recommend.  I had the chance to travel to Montserrat in Spain in search of fine ochre and with the help of a geologist we collected samples. This samples were then taken to London to do different processes for purifying and levigating its impurities.

Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain located near the city of Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain. The mountain is composed of strikingly conglomerates, a form of sedimentary rock. Just to admire the geological formations in this area is worthwhile, as if they were painted with a red colour palette. I spent three days there, studying about ancient pigments and textiles, the history of the area, the geological formations and more importantly collecting ochre.  Montserrat Mountain is famous for its abbey, which is located at the top of the mountain, so in order to go up you could either use the funicular or the train and you could have a fantastic view of all the area. 

It can be said that ochre has been the first coloured pigment used by prehistoric people found in the oldest of civilisations. The first earth pigments date from 350,000 BC but there is no evidence of it just until the Upper Paleolithic period around 90,000 BC, which can be seen in mural art in different archaeological sites. 

The earth’s crust is rich in iron oxides, ochres and minerals, which can be used as pigments and is found in a variety of shades and tones: from red, yellow and purple ochres, green earths (terre verte), whites and blacks. Ochre was the most commonly used pigment for painting walls in the ancient Mediterranean world. In classical antiquity, the finest red ochre came from a Greek colony, where the modern city of Sinope in Turkey is located, which is situated on the most northern edge of the Turkish side of the Black Sea coast.

Photos: KKgas and Laura Daza