Colour therapy

Last updated 10:40 06/10/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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If you are feeling more emotional or having mood swings since the quakes, it might be a result of Christchurch's new obsession with colour. BECK ELEVEN reports from the red-green-white zone.

Remember when Christchurch city was 50 shades of grey? The Halswell stone of Christ Church Cathedral and its slate grey roof, the varying shades of liquefaction as it bubbled and dried, and the dull mountains of concrete rubble, broken by occasional glints of steel dully reflecting the sun?

If the quakes brought an appreciation that grey comes in so many shades, officialdom has decreed we must live by the Rule of Colour.

Of course we'd learned to obey red, green and yellow when kerbside recycling was introduced, but after the 7.1 earthquake of September 4, 2010, houses and businesses were slapped with red, green or yellow stickers to indicate structural integrity.

Next came the coloured zones - red, green, white and orange. Within the green zones, we had green-blue (technical category 3) and green-yellow (technical category 2).

The Re:Start Mall opened with its brightly coloured shipping container shops - and where bars and restaurants of The Strip once stood, the grey road is now decorated with a red and green mural. Planter pots are slathered with paint from the Resene line in belladonna purple, pizazz orange, red hot red, rouge pink and picton blue.

Christchurch is now a city of colours - and confusion.

There is a theory that colour dictates mood and can sway emotion. It is employed by interior decorators when creating a commercial or domestic space. Red is an energetic colour, prone to making people move fast. Green will make people linger.

But is that airy-fairy, fruit-loopery or is there something more behind the theory of brightening up a room or looking at something through rose-tinted spectacles?

Pip Oxlade, author of Being in Colour, a book devoted to health through colour, believes colour is a language.

"Like sound is a vibration, so is colour," she says. "It means more to some people, those who are more right- brained creative thinkers."

Oxlade says colours create an emotional response; so, for example, if you enter a pale green room you will feel calmer than if you were to enter a bright orange room.

Starting from red, which resonates with the root chakra, it equates to Earth energy. Red has a connection with power, desire and force. Or it can mean stop, beware and give a heightened emotion like anger.

Orange goes with the sacral chakra around the abdomen. It's about stimulation and, Oxlade says, where artists reach to feel inspiration.

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Yellow goes with the solar plexus and is a place of ego and power.

Green goes with the heart chakra. It provides a sense of peace, nature and balance. It represents earthiness and is a harmonising colour. People sleep well in a green room, she says.

Blue goes with the throat and is about communication and expression, truth and clarity.

Indigo is the brow chakra, the "third eye" and represents deep thought and intuition.

The crown chakra is purple and white, creating a bridge between the physical and spiritual, balancing the two hemispheres of the brain.

Relaying these thoughts over the coloured zones of Christchurch, Oxlade says colouring the central city with a red zone has made it an area of action.

"A type of place people will play and make decisions. It is a hive of activity."

In contrast, the other red zoned area - the Residential Red Zone - is an area of inactivity. It needs to be remediated.

According to Oxlade's colour theory, when the Earth creates so much energy, as it did during the quakes, there must be balance - a yin to the yang.

"If you have action in one red zone, you must let the other red zone rest and give Mother Earth the chance to recuperate."

Perhaps frayed tempers over inactivity on TC3 and TC2 land can be boiled down to the mixed-colour naming of these zones.

"Yellow and green don't work so well together," says Oxlade. "Green is for harmony and healing; yellow is for the power, the ego and the mind. It creates a struggle. It would have been better to make it all green or all yellow. Or all blue, not green and blue. These don't sit right."

Meanwhile, it's not all doom and gloom, the coloured areas in and near the Re:Start Mall have more healing power because they are by a river, says Oxlade.

"A river represents life, so having hot colours and interpretations of the colours of the rainbow alongside the river is excellent. The energy of the river carries the colours, revitalising the city.

"The rainbow is a symbol of peace and connection. People who wear bright colours aren't afraid to make a statement. They vibrate with energy.

"People who wear black and grey often feel threatened by these people. It is really important to wear colour close to your heart and the river is like the heart of a city."

But back to grey.

Its neutrality doesn't let it off scot-free in the theory of colour therapy.

Oxlade says grey is like a plaster over a wound. You can ignore it and never take the plaster off, but it won't heal.

"Grey is a place of lethargy but pressure will build up. It represents something that needs to be faced. You need to lift the plaster up and address the grief and shock in a pro-active way."

So, as Christchurch rebuilds and rises from the grey, a colour palette is spreading. Will we put the primary colour zones behind us? And should we rename the red-light zone in an attempt to bring peace and harmony?

- The Press

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