The morning after a revolution by Alan Dunn, February 2010

I wake up and stretch my weary back, knocking over the statue of black CDs by the side of the bed. , said Lenin about Mozart. The sound of dripping water. I open the curtains to a drizzly grey fog enveloping Wallasey, shadows having slithered off to warmer climes.

Unlike Robert Rauschenberg who limited perception to the shadow of the viewer moving in front of the white canvas, Gerhard Richter removed even the shadow itself. He wrote to Edy de Wilde in 1975 grey is the epitome of non-statement, it does not trigger off feelings or associations, it is actually neither visible nor invisible … and like no other colour it is suitable for illustrating ‘nothing’. It is the only possible equivalent for indifference, for the refusal to make a statement, for lack of opinion, for lack of form.

From the oval mirror, words from the Old Testament stare back at me: bring down thy grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. I pull on my faded Arts Council of England t-shirt and head out to the park. Cool colours like grey can cause you to underestimate time. The playlist: Richard and Mimi Farina Celebrations for a grey day, Bad Religion Grey race, Suzanne Vega Songs in red and grey, Roxy Music Grey lagoons, The Who Blue, red and grey

I live three minutes from Central Park in Wallasey, a simple park opened in 1891 and once the grounds of Liscard Hall. The building was more recently used as an Art College with alumni including OMD’s Andy McCluskey, but on the 7th July 2008 it was razed to the ground. I went out at night to photograph the remaining rubble and used the dark image on the cover of the Revolution CD. Architecture and morality. The sky hangs heavy. Running around the cricket pitch and Council changing rooms, the greys around me turn out to be dull yellow-greens, dull greens or dull blue-violets. Grey wheelie bins for paper. Grey literature. Grey is the colour of hope. During her political imprisonment in Siberia, poet Irina Ratushinskaya fought to transform her surrounds into hope; the survival of a tiny insect, the joy of splicing up a food morsel between ten women, the grey of their Zek uniforms. I force myself to name the greys I see: oyster, Michael Stipe’s headache grey, Glasgow grey, Payne’s Grey, ash and cloud. Kisho Kurokawa reminds us that “in contrast to grey in the West, which is a combination of white and black, Rikyu grey is a combination of four opposing colours: red, blue, yellow and white.”

(Voice over tanoy system): GREY INTERNATIONAL, a leading global advertising agency group, is looking for a graduate to handle day-to-day management of its Intranet site.

Approaching the space where Liscard Hall once stood, the Mersey Tunnel vents come into view in the distance. Sounds from the suburbs. Boston Symphony Orchestra describes their side drum as neutral grey. Perhaps that is colour association rather than a verifiable relationship. It’s always Greyhound Buses, but the colour gray. I think of Leeds’ Frankie Gray. In the early-90s I worked in Frankie’s birthplace, bleak rainy Castlemilk on the South Side of Glasgow, with the Pensioners’ Action Group. For months I encouraged them to draw Frank Sinatra, using white chalk on black paper, slowly zooming in on his eyes. They made a show of it called When I’m old and grey in the local shopping centre. Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Colour on Capitol Records from 1956 includes Alec Wilder’s piece Gray, now reworked for this CD by Andrew Wilson-Lambeth.

I was shocked the first time I saw the Ndebele wall paintings of Africa. Many of them were grey and monochrome. They belonged more to the East End of Glasgow, my aunts and uncles’ grey streets of meat markets, bookies, windowless pubs and scrap yards. This dull damp East End was documented in the late 1800’s by a photographer calling himself The Shadow. The earth was grey with phantoms P.B. Shelley wrote. I grew up in that East End with a father obsessed by the 18% grey card, the mathematical middle point between black and white. Oscar Marzaroli’s city of Shades of grey. We had very few shadows. Donald Judd regarded grey as a colour. At this stage we consider the problematic question, whether all human forms and hues are not equally beautiful, and whether custom and self-deceit are not the causes of preference? I reach the beginning again, breathing heavily, my halfway point. Listening to Kelvin K’s Revolution beats. Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins and to the human eye a white wall is 2800k. In 1979 I went to a huge grey concrete Secondary School soundtracked by The Specials singing I’m the man in grey, just the man at C&A, The Beat painting your life with a permanent grey and Madness’ Grey day. In 1984 we read Orwell describing Winston’s fear of the grey faces. I write prosaically. Around the football pitch. Ferguson blamed defeat on United’s grey strip. “English football is a grey game played on grey days by grey people” said Rodney Marsh as he stepped onto the plane for Florida. Grey satellite dishes. Grey squirrels.

At art school in the mid-80s I became interested in grey, in Richter’s grey, Morrissey’s silent and grey, Hüsker Dü’s all I see is grey; John Major became Prime Minister whilst I was doing my MA and in 1993 I produced Europe’s biggest mural at the time, turning a vast car park’s grey surface green. The public, and The Sun, slated it. I should have kept it grey. Devenir a gris.

At 20 I started going grey up top. Is it just a lack of melanin? Back in Boston, the University Medical Research Centre discovered that individuals who start to grey while still young are six times more likely to suffer a degenerative thinning of the bones. “Let the grey ones beware! The general public no longer loves its grey ones so dearly” warned D.H. Lawrence. Smokers are four times more likely to begin greying prematurely. Will the woman in my life like my grey hair? I contacted the Cologne branch of The Grey Panthers. Prevent grey hairs with our special stress-free mortgage for first time buyers. The pensioners I jog past don’t look like roaring. There are over one thousand pensioners in UK jails. My legs ache, each stain on the grey path a little grey country. A meeting of The Grey Council is adjourning. Grey cloaks stand around a circular table. I proposed hiring a Miro exhibition to contrast my Payne’s Grey suite of Kilmarnock paintings. I moved to the grey town of Derby and read James Hanley’s Grey Children – a study in humbug and misery. I moved to Liverpool. When skies are grey asked Steve McManaman whether his favourite colour was red or blue. “Neither” he diplomatically replied, “it’s grey.” Grey is a colour with a gentle demeanor, perfect for autumn, winter and spring, a colour for the business world, serious and respected.

It used to be that newly pressed records were first listened to by grey suited doormen and if they could whistle it after one listening, the music had passed the old grey whistle test. The 2005 compilation Music for Jogging proudly boasted on its sleeve Bonus feature: bpm for each track included. Six years ago American artist Margaret Muller was brutally murdered as she jogged through Victoria Park in London. Movement in the bushes. Blow up. In What sound does a colour make? Kathleen Forde recounted philosopher John Locke’s tale of a studious blind man bragging that he understood what the colour scarlet signified … the sound of a trumpet. Twice around Central Park every day trying to work this grey project out. An old L’Oreal advert lay in a puddle: This is today’s grey, so radiant, it’s a revolution! Walking through New York’s Central Park one grey icy foggy morning, I hear only Rory Macbeth’s Untitled Sustained Note no.3. The opposite of grey could only be grey. I’m doing the running for the kids. I’m running to make the grey bearable, to make it hopeful, like having someone film me having my last ever cigarette for Self portrait with last cigarette.

I approach the final stretch, the skies darkening, the cricket pavilion morphing into a pier, the sight screens into sails. I’m running through Tate Britain past Turner’s Moonlight: a study at Millbank. A foggy greying skyline is salvaged only by a brilliant yellow moon. C’mon kids. Have we ever let you down? The moonlight in the grey. Wake up. It’s a beautiful morning.