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English Doesn’t Have a Word for This Color, but Japanese Does

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In English, we might call the color above “sky blue,” or perhaps just “light blue.” But in Japanese, it’s not blue at all. It’s its own color: mizu. It's perceived as a unique hue, as GOOD reports, much like we think of red and purple being unique.

Japanese researchers in Tokyo and Kyoto, and Ohio State University researchers in Columbus asked 57 native Japanese speakers to look at color cards and name the colors they saw in order to get a better idea of how many distinct, base colors the Japanese language recognizes. As they write in the Journal of Vision, they found 16 distinct color categories.

The 11 main, base colors named by most participants were equivalent to colors found in the English language: black, white, gray, red, yellow, green, blue, pink, orange, brown, and purple. Others were unique to Japanese, seen as distinct colors in their own right: mizu (meaning “water,” a light blue), hada (meaning “skin tone,” a peach), kon (meaning “indigo,” a dark blue), matcha (a yellow-green named for green tea), enji (maroon), oudo (meaning “sand or mud,” a color we’d call mustard), yamabuki (gold, named after a flower), and cream.

The color terms gathered through the study. The taller the column, the more subjects described the color using that word. (All the colors were named by at least four participants.) Image Credit: Kuriki et. al, Journal of Vision (2017)

 
Mizu, in particular, stood out as a distinct color. While not everyone in the study identified dark blue as kon, mizu was almost universally recognized by the interview subjects. Because of this, the researchers suggest that it be recognized as its own 12th color category in the Japanese lexicon, added to the language's standard color categories of red, blue, green, etc. (the ones that English speakers would find familiar).

The existence of these colors doesn't necessarily mean Japanese is more sensitive to color differences overall compared to other languages—it doesn’t have names for some colors we can identify in English, such as magenta or lime.

“The study of color naming is fundamentally the study of how words come to be associated with things—all things that exist, from teacups to love,” Ohio State optometrist Angela Brown explains in a press release. “The visual system can discern millions of colors,” she says, “but people only describe a limited number of them, and that varies depending on their community and the variety of colors that enter into their daily lives.”

[h/t GOOD]

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Art
Artist Makes Colorful Prints From 1990s VHS Tapes

A collection of old VHS tapes offers endless crafting possibilities. You can use them to make bird houses, shelving units, or, if you’re London-based artist Dieter Ashton, screen prints from the physical tape itself.

As Co.Design reports, the recent London College of Communication graduate was originally intrigued by the art on the cover of old VHS and cassette tapes. He planned to digitally edit them as part of a new art project, but later realized that working with the ribbons of tape inside was much more interesting.

To make a print, Ashton unravels the film from cassettes and VHS tapes collected from his parents' home. He lets the strips fall randomly then presses them into tight, tangled arrangements with the screen. The piece is then brought to life with vibrant patterns and colors.

Ashton has started playing with ways to incorporate themes and motifs from the films he's repurposing into his artwork. If the movie behind one of his creations isn’t immediately obvious, you can always refer to its title. His pieces are named after movies like Backdraft, Under Siege, and that direct-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic Passport to Paris.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Dieter Ashton

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photography
This Is What Flowers Look Like When Photographed With an X-Ray Machine
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Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Peruvian Daffodil” (1938)

Many plant photographers choose to showcase the vibrant colors and physical details of exotic flora. For his work with flowers, Dr. Dain L. Tasker took a more bare-bones approach. The radiologist’s ghostly floral images were recorded using only an X-ray machine, according to Hyperallergic.

Tasker snapped his pictures of botanical life while he was working at Los Angeles’s Wilshire Hospital in the 1930s. He had minimal experience photographing landscapes and portraits in his spare time, but it wasn’t until he saw an X-ray of an amaryllis, taken by a colleague, that he felt inspired to swap his camera for the medical tool. He took black-and-white radiographs of everything from roses and daffodils to eucalypti and holly berries. The otherworldly artwork was featured in magazines and art shows during Tasker’s lifetime.

Selections from Tasker's body of work have been seen around the world, including as part of the Floral Studies exhibition at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in San Diego in 2016. Prints of his work are also available for purchase from the Stinehour Wemyss Editions and Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Philodendron” (1938)
Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Philodendron” (1938)

X-ray image of a rose.
Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “A Rose” (1936)

All images courtesy of Joseph Bellows Gallery.

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