Crimson tide — why nothing stirs the emotions like a rush of red
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The late art critic Tom Lubbock once wrote of the power of Rothko’s paintings, and why it was they worked. “Rothko made a real discovery when he found that, by using a very restricted language… of strong colour, blurry-edged and set in simple arrangements, he could stir in the viewer a powerful empathetic and emotional response. There is a technical term for this. It’s a familiar expression when we talk about popular music, but almost never used in connection with art: the hook… And the thing about hooks is that they have an almost neurological effect. They do something to you…A Rothko work is all hook, it’s designed as a simple, strong visual catch; one riff, writ very large.”
Lubbock was describing an artwork. Were fashion to have a hook, it would surely be an all-red loom. In the hands of a real couturier, the results can be captivating. And while red carries many meanings – from the adulterer’s scarlet to cardinal red – it’s most ravishing when it overwhelms. From the couture silhouette of a carmine ball-gown at Balenciaga, to the sweeping romantic reds at Valentino, and from the Chinese reds at Gucci to the tomato silks at Prada, this season delivered dozens of masterpieces. We were hooked.