The Colour of Ink ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2022

The Colour of Ink ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2022

As much a history lesson about ink processes as it is a humanist journey via art, The Colour of Ink is an unexpected treat of curiosity for a craft we are perhaps willfully ignorant to. What an absolute must-watch.

Ink is our primal medium. It has always been with us, inscribing the evolution of humanity. The Colour of Ink uncovers the medium’s mystery and power through the eyes of Jason Logan, a visionary Toronto ink maker. Working with ingredients foraged in the wild—weeds, berries, bark, flowers, rocks, rust—he makes ink from just about anything. Jason sends custom-made inks to an eclectic range of artists around the world, from a New Yorker cartoonist to a Japanese calligrapher. As the inks take on a life of their own, his playful alchemy paints a story of colour that reconnects us to the earth and returns us to a childlike sense of wonder.

As someone who has an art degree, it became very easy to enjoy as we delved into the world of ink. I remember seeing short videos about some people trying to make the deepest shade of black as humanly possible, and I was hooked. So, a film about someone using anything in front of him to create what we use to create art is an easy sell. What wasn’t expected, however, was how such a unique concept would grab you so well.

Jason Logan takes us on a breezy journey of his techniques, taking the most unthinkable of objects and making them a source for his ink. Eventually, his journey finishes at the ink’s own destination, into the hands in which the ink ends up. Along the way, we see him try to figure things out and experiment like a mad scientist. At one point, he doesn’t know if some inks will last for a long time before eventually vanishing (a continual battle that red and pink inks have with the creator). Even with the possibility of ink looking like one colour, it changes colours when out in the air and on a specific material. So, the perfectionist that he is, he disappears to figure things out. It is all so unexpectedly compelling.

As we move ever more to a digital age in the art world, documentaries like The Colour of Ink are a timely reminder of where art comes from and how special it is to source and find the ingredients to create the most gorgeous of colours. To feel what our ink has made, we may even take it all for granted, buy ink from a shop, and then just use it. The closest comparison to this would be the decimation of film for cinephiles, for the digital age is a ruthless beast. We moved on to digital filmmaking without a care in the world, yet when we see a movie filmed in, say, 16mm, we laud and pour our love over it. The same is happening with physical crafts now.

Also, at times you get the feeling that The Colour of Art would be far better suited to being a short series led by Logan as we venture around the world talking to artists and their connection to this art medium. A wonderfully fascinating piece that feels like a gentle, wonderfully pleasant amble.

★★★ 1/2

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