Cadmium Red

Philip Guston Cabal Cadmium Red Red is often a scream, or at the very least an amplified bass line across the concert hall of a canvas.

Cadmium Red is a crimson so intense and golden, that it seems like it would be the most perfect red on which to bite into and feast. In its purest form, it is never cold or cooled. It beams out to the eyes like a burning candy or sun-drenched child’s toy.

Cadmium Red too, is the heaviest rock among the rose-ready pigments available to the contemporary painter. Often, its gravity can be far too intense. In the skin of humans it seems like a thinly applicable concrete that can petrify the flesh and quickly become a heavy armor for any figure to bear. In the red rinds of certain apples too, its weight can stick – imagining lifting a cadmium apple from a canvas is like imagining pulling a strong magnet from the side of a steel wall.

But this weight also gives it the somewhat fantastic ability to, despite its more piercing properties, become a kind of bedrock platform for a painting to stand on. Such as in many a Philip Guston work.

This quality also makes it a willing background for other colors, and it seems easily to step aside like scaffolding for whites, yellows, blacks, and browns.

On the canvas, Cadmium Red has no trace of blood to it, it would never be found at a crime scene. But it is theatrical. I could imagine it pouring from some slain imaginary folk hero like a rage filled waterfall.  A great symbolic red of suns, fires, and the heated emotions of rage and lust.

True Cadmium Red can be identified in mixes by its color index designation of PR 108 (that is Pigment Red 108). With its mix of cadmium sulfides and selenides, it is of course rather poisonous and always seems to be in the quiet discussions to go the way of lost reds like Vermillion.

Once, when discussing the toxicity of Cadmium Red at school. A much beloved painting teacher made the point that there is so much life within a tube of Cadmium Red, that its life-giving properties in painting certainly outweighs its potential hazards.