Works celebrating the power of an inspiring and highly symbolic colour: Black


Maruani Mercier presents works celebrating the power of an inspiring and highly symbolic colour: Black


KNOKKE. The perception of colours and its use has always been cultural and ideological. A colour is often associated to an economic, political, social, symbolic issue within a specific context. “Any history of colours must first be a social history.” In this sense, the colour is a fact of society and as for each colour, the nature of black is twofold as it has been developed by the historian Michel Pastoureau in his book Noir: Histoire d’une couleur. * The black colour sometimes cumulates at the same time pejorative charge and elective value. Over the centuries, its symbolism has been subject to debate.

Often associated with witchcraft or mourning, from the 14th to the 16th century, black became a respectable and luxurious colour, related to royalty until the middle of the 17th century. Later, the black colour has been linked to modernity. As such the meaning of the black colour has evolved over the years and its significance is now pluri-vocal. It has become tragic, poetic, modern, elegant, and transgressive, often seen as a symbol of rebellion.

In the history of art, the colour blackevolved and became the subject matter and experimentation of many artists. As Henri Matisse said “Black is a colour by itself, which sums up and consumes the other colours.” In 1915, the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich presented his famous Black Cross and Black Square, initiating the movement of suprematism, which focused on basic geometric forms painted in a limited range of colours. The black in Malevich’s paintings, discharged of its symbolic substance, becomes a manifesto of modernity, marking a break in the history of art. Later, Abstract Expressionist artists such as Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline appropriated the black colour as their artistic language, exploring the materiality of the colour. The American sculptor Louise Nevelson, on her side, honoured the black colour through monumental, monochromatic, wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures made out of recycled objects. The black colour for her “wasn’t a negation of colour. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colours. Black is the most aristocratic of all.”

In the sixties, the French painter Pierre Soulages created the concept of outrenoir, exclusively using the black colour to create black paintings that evolve in time and space through light. In opposition to the variety of nuances of black used by Soulages, the British artist Anish Kapoor bought the artistic rights of the Vantablack colour in 2016, a colour which defies the perception of space and materiality.

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