Pastel colours have achieved a level of popularity in art and design that hasn’t been seen in nearly two decades. In the wake of the new and powerful symbolism attached to the pastel family, artists have begun to employ the colours deliberately within their practices.
Pastel colours have achieved a level of popularity in art and design that hasn’t been seen in nearly two decades. Described as soothing, soft, and lacking in strong chromatic content, hues of pale yellow, baby blue, millennial pink and peppermint green have long held associations in Western culture with rebirth, springtime and femininity. Though the lightness of the pastel palette was once believed to psychologically induce a feeling of calmness, the popularity of the spectrum within recent years is far more political.
As a challenge to gender stereotypes, millennial pink has become a colour that symbolizes acceptance. Gen Z yellow and other chalky shades of the golden hue have strong associations with hope and optimism in an era defined by political divisiveness, environmental challenges and rising costs of living. In the wake of the new and powerful symbolism attached to the pastel family, artists have begun to employ the colours deliberately within their practices.
When paired with blue skies, palm trees and asphalt, the ice cream-hued stucco facades in George Byrne’s photographs encapsulates not only the spirit of his adopted city’s unique and diverse cityscape but also an aesthetic sensibility. Kathryn Macnaughton’s canvasses - inspired by collage, cut-outs, vintage palettes, and digital illustration – use floods of pastel colour to inform the many and converging concerns of the moment: permanence, fragments, history and the body. Finally, the deeply allegorical, non-linear journey one takes through Michelle Nguyen’s paintings sees the viewer encounter pastel hues imbued within everything from High Renaissance portraits and depictions of mythological figures to kitschy pink pool toys and frosted cakes.