30 May 2011

How many galleries do you know that have their walls painted black?  Or some of their walls painted black?  I ask this because this was a risk I took at my Degree Show last Friday.

This painting looked particularly good against black rather than white : ‘Star Carr’, 6’x5′, oil on canvas.

My exhibition space had one long wall, two short walls and a half wall.  I painted them all black but the half wall, on which I hung two A1 black mounted, black framed graphite drawings called ‘Excavations Star Carr 1’ and ‘2’.  These looked effective against white.

One advantage of having a black wall, I found, was that it enhanced the richness of the mixed black in the paintings.  I prefer to mix my own black, rather than use tube black, because of the luxuriousness of the result, and because it then produces a range of wonderful greys I would not have thought to deliberately mix.  I enjoy this because it questions Kandinsky’s assumption that grey is a bit of a non-colour that shouldn’t be used in painting at all. 

I was a bit non-plussed at first when a gallery owner at the Degree Show remarked on  my black walls that I’d been ‘very brave’.  With undertones of ancient episodes of ‘Yes Minister’ in my ears, I wondered if she meant that my future was definitely a disaster waiting to happen.  Hopefully, that only works in connection with politics.  Art, after all, is meant to be a haven for rebels, whatever colour they mat be.

Perhaps she will go away musing on the possibility of offering black walls to her clients.  Not that the whole gallery should be overtaken by that colour, but perhaps the option should be offered.  “Would you like your work to be shown on a white or a black wall madam?”  Think what an effect that might have on your favourite painting.  Perhaps it should be compulsory for artists to ask for the option.  Perhaps black is becoming the new white……  Any gallery owners out there with thoughts on the matter?


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