[Blue shark]

[Blue shark]

Photo credit: Dan Bolt

Written by Therese Kieran

Take blue off the menu

I paint blue,

   not caring if splatters pollock

my white shirt;

                 caught up in the curves

                        of a nylon brush,

its undulating swirls

                                    swerving the edge

            to change course;

                   wild pelagic peregrinations


         turquoise, cobalt, ultramarine

      become a steady pectoral glide

                 from page to page,

             until waters run deep into finning;

dorsals hacked off for morsels

                reportedly tasteless;

       blue butchered alive,

bloodied, thrown back, shock

            filling bowl-shaped eyes,

full stops sliding off

      tubular blown out snouts,

  white undersides spinning down

            to deepest blue,

                        to the upside

                                downturned smiles


                                                in vermillion hues,

                                              smears, splashes

                                                            thrashing tradition

                                                                        I paint blue.

Essay on Blue

thinking the unthinkable

What if the world lost its blue? No really, it might sound ridiculous, but doesn’t life feel increasingly dystopian all of a sudden…

Or what if blue had never been? No blue sky or seas, okay, not actually blue but you get my drift… no denim, no willow pattern, no cornflowers, bluebells, irises or forget-me-nots. No mazarine butterflies, no splendid fairywrens, no kingfisher heads, no magpie feathers shot through with blue, no love-in-the-mist. Are you getting the gist?

The first synthetically produced colour, Egyptian blue, dates from around 2200 BC. It came from the rare and expensive mineral, lapis lazuli. Ultramarine, aka true blue, indigo, cobalt, prussian, in fact, a long tail of blue followed.

Artists have appropriated blue, visually, musically, lyrically, in film, in everything from Yves Klein’s life defining blue to Vincent’s Starry Night. Similarly Picasso, Miró, Hokusai, Matisse, Kandinsky, Da Vinci, Marc and Bourgeois all bonded with blue.  And who could contemplate a world devoid of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue; who would avoid being lampooned and hooked, corkscrewed into its bubbling bluesy intro?

And do you recall the movies Betty Blue or The Blues Brothers or Three Colours Blue? Or what if Toni Morrison had never written, The Bluest Eyes or Johnny Cash never sang Folsom Prison Blues and let’s not chew alternatives for Elvis’s Blue Suede Shoes or Elton’s Blue Eyes or Crystal’s Brown Eyes Blue… And whilst tangentially veering off course let’s spare a thought for the humble rainbow. Am I losing you?

Okay, a circuitous route to the beautiful cerulean blue shark, currently in danger of near extinction. Over-fishing is the cause, primarily for stringy soup that is neither tasty nor nutritious but a symbol of wealth in China since the Ming dynasty. Approximately 100 million sharks, including 20 million blues, are killed each year for their fins, most hacked off at sea. The flesh is comparatively worthless and without fins the sharks suffocate or are eaten by predators when dumped. Sharks are critical to marine ecosystems; without them the food chain collapses. So how about ditching overfishing, binning finning, squashing tradition in favour of shark ecotourism? Diving generates around $312 million worldwide and is predicted to reach around $780 million within 20 years. Blues are migratory, travelling thousands of miles cleaning our oceans; a vital blue, unthinkable that contemporary values might destroy the wonder of their being.

Brought to you by 26 Characters Ltd and The Wildlife Trusts