The Gulf Between – De Warande Turnhout
With ‘The Gulf Between’, the Warande presents an exhibition about black, white and everything
in between. The title refers to the first American film production in technicolor. This film from 1917 has largely been lost. Only a few fragments survived.
The invention of film and, earlier, of photography
photography ensured that for more than 50 years – until well after WWII – people got to see their information about the world in black and white. The impact of this on art is undoubtedly enormous. For although works of art existed in black and white from the Middle Ages onwards, it was not until the 20th century that this phenomenon increased enormously.
In the work of the artists in this exhibition, white, black and tones of gray predominate.
of gray predominate. The disappearance of color is part of the core of their practice. There are various motives that have led these artists to abandon color.
Some create in this way a twilight world that connects to reality in a different way. A world in gray tones refers to memories and visions. This world alienates the viewer. Contrary to what we sometimes suspect with the word gray, these works often just hold a great tension. In the 1980s, specifically in Belgium, there was a movement within painting in which color became more obscure, with painters such as Luc Tuymans and Bert De Beul. In their work they evoke associations with politics, power and distorted sexuality.
For others, this omission of color is an investigation into the core of what an image is. They reduce the work of art to its purest
form. They go through a search similar to the early avant-garde artists, but also linking to the spiritual use of black and white images in the Middle Ages. For example, the exterior shutters of altarpieces were often painted in black and white and displayed during Lent. Indeed, the omission of color encouraged meditation and prayer.
Working in black and white is also a way of showing technical mastery. There are very early examples of this too
in painting. For example, we think of the grisaill technique that emerged in the 15th century. These works are a play of illusion or trompe- l’oeil. Even in contemporary art, for example, hyperrealists often work in gray tones. More recently, there are artists who have pushed this even further to extremes. For example, Hans Op de Beeck who has also applied this in sculpture, creating a parallel reality.
Photography is to this day an obvious medium for working in black and white. When color photography made its appearance, photographers stuck to black and white photography.
Consequently, black and white photography often offers a more intense viewing experience.
Recently, among a younger generation of artists, charcoal is a commonly used material. Again, this is an explicit choice by the artist not to use color. She explicitly refers to the fictional nature of what is depicted.
In this exhibition De Warande brings together
a rich selection of contemporary works of art in a palette of black, white and gray that make you experience the power of colorlessness in different ways.