Thursday, 31 March 2011

Black a colour or an ideal?

Untitled (I am invisible man) Glen Ligon 1992

People don’t often come to my studio, but I’ll grab the opportunity when these occasions arise. Last week I got talking to a studio neighbour about colour, she like myself has a limited palette, white, white and white again… Her choice was about the idea of non-colours, a ‘matter of factness’ attributed to the way we interact with black and white on a daily basis – generally text. I’ve been told many times that black isn't a colour, is there such a thing as a non-colour?

In an interview between artist Glen Ligon and Patricia Bickers, the artist describes black and white as a consequence of the text that he literally transcribes on his paintings. This lends itself to that ‘matter of factness’ I mentioned earlier. But the sheer quantity of copying, transforms the content into something unreadable/unseen – which he says is the main objective: drawing attention to the largely ignored writings of several black authors.

Historian Michel Pastoureau poses that black is indeed a colour, decentring the Newtonian scientific spectrum as one of many systems for classifying colours. From his perspective…

It is society that “makes” the colour, that gives it its definitions and meanings, that constructs its codes and values, that organises its customs and determines its stakes

I’m inclined to agree with this. Of course I go back to my trusty MIT readers (cus I love em). ‘Colour’ edited by David Batchelor includes an essay by Theodor Adorno. In 1970 he proposed that the colour of radical art was ‘black’, because it signalled an impoverishment, a stripping down of fripperies more relevant to the extreme darkness of ‘social reality’. As a way of combating the inequities of society, black was an ideal…

Never having been a colourist, I feel torn by these two propositions. There is nothing ‘non’ about black in my eyes but as an idea, as a socio political umbrella – makes me want to make a canopy…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Longest locks in the world

Oldies but goodies…

So it’s my turn to mind the store today, and I’m hoping that my piece may still look okay after 3 weeks of prodding. I’m still interested in ‘looks’, in making something beautiful. As an artist operating in these times, I’m not supposed to talk about beauty. Frankly I’m not immune, I aspire to many of those societal ideals, high production value being one of them. That said I do admire artists who don't prioritise looks, leaving the outcome as a consequence of an action or sequence of events. That kind of praxis is more cerebral, for me sensation is a big part of how I engage with things…

I’m kinda ole school… and some of those ole school encounters are still circling in my head. I’m often reacquainting myself with texts I vaguely remember, or didn’t understand in the first place – I must admit that some inspiration for the Dilston piece came from a very old essay (Hairstyle politics by kobena Mercer). The essay attempted to navigate through the socio-political debates surrounding hair, using (as one example) the rise and fall of the Afro as a symbol of pride to something silly and kitsch.

So I reckon I’m a little behind on current debates surrounding non-European art, but as things are becoming increasingly ‘international’ I find ‘Black Abstract’ still relevant, and although fluidity is still part of the exploration its not about water…

Friday, 11 March 2011

Life of the object

Concretum opening Dilston Grove

I’ve got better about showing work as I try to look at each opportunity as a test bed for ideas. Shows are deadlines, usually raising issues that need to be thought about. It’s important to see how other people engage with the work, even if it’s painful. ‘Maurice’ (the piece I made for show) kinda takes its inspiration from the Christian relic, because of its tactility people are inevitably drawn to touching it.

Maurice 2011

I feel torn… the spirit of the idea is coming through - people are responding to it (thats positive init?). At the same time, I feel as sense of panic about it literally disintegrating during the exhibition. It would entirely makes sense if the piece were to fall apart (I have been talking about mutable and unstable structures), this is one of those occasions when it feels like the work is dictating, leaving me no choice but to go along with it.