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Exhibition at Galerie Biesenbach in Cologne

When colours disappear from the scene


Light is reflected on the glossy surfaces of the white and black wall sculptures by artist Árpád Forgó (*1972), bringing subtle nuances of colour to the achromatic. What look like tiles or plastic are actually covered canvas modules. The notches in black and white wooden blocks by South Korean artist Ji Eun Lee (*1984) create soft shadows. And tin cans have crept under the filigree drawings of Brazilian vegetables by José Gomes (*1968). He uses them to criticise the destruction of the rainforest and the exploitation of labour that the global distribution of food from his home country entails.

It's about much more than just black and white

What remains when you remove all colour from art? The current exhibition at Galerie Biesenbach, "achromatic", explores this question. Works by nine artists are on display - each bringing their own interpretation of "achromatic". It is not so much about black and white, but rather about everything in between, about the shades of grey and nuances that arise when colours disappear from the picture.

The contributions of Parisian artist Catherine Seher (*1958) show what is meant by this. In her paintings, figures blur with the landscape until they become unrecognisable and anonymous. The colourless works appear as if a black and white filter had been applied to her colourful pictures.

"achromatic" forces us to take a closer look

With the banishment of colour, the monochrome also threatens to become monotonous. But Seher's achromaticity reinforces the isolation of her figures. And so the loss of colour also adds a new quality. Where colour recedes, material, technique and form come more to the fore. Light and shadow gain in importance. By abandoning colour, artists force us to take a closer look, as ceramic artist Beate Höing (*1966) proves with "Black Snow“.

From a distance, the mural looks like an indefinable, shiny black something. If you get closer, you can recognise flowers and dead birds. Their wings disappear between the numerous, pointed petals. Höing plays with the kitsch associations of ceramics - in other works she combines blue and white flowered vases with small, found figurines. Without the colour, what is otherwise so ornamental suddenly becomes almost abstract.

While Höing's dead birds can certainly cause discomfort, the works of Japanese artist Hideaki Yamanobe (*1964) seem like a haven of peace that has become art. He largely dispenses with colour throughout his work, drawing attention to the texture of his paintings. For one of the exhibited works, he first applied several layers of black paint, then a thin layer of warm white. Yamanobe finally scraped this off again in places - you might think you recognise flowers in it. The layer of colour is thickest at the edges, so that the picture surface stretches out between them and appears almost empty.

Hideaki Yamanobe: His strength lies in emptiness

Another of his paintings, "Black Screen Scratches", lives up to the promise of its title: a black, square canvas, criss-crossed by deep scratches. But if you take a closer look, you realise that this time the black is matt, almost grainy and reminiscent of volcanic rock. Incidentally, he inflicted the scratches on the painting with the wooden frame of a Japanese fan (uchiwa). They can be interpreted as injury or aggression, or as threads of rain.




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