WHITE | Curated by Colin Darke
White is the fourth and final exhibition showing the work of QSS studio artists, curated by artist Colin Darke. It was preceded by Unafraid Red, Unafraid Yellow and Unafraid Blue. Recognising that the task of dividing twenty-three artists and twenty-three very different stylistic practices into four thematic categories would result in spurious relationships, Darke settled on assemblages based around colour. This allows for a level of visual cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that defines Queen Street Studios.
The titles of the first three shows reference Barnett Newman’s four paintings made between 1966 and 1970, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, considering the juxtaposition of the three primaries as an emotional dialogue, as opposed to, for example, the more clinical, quasi-mathematical compositions of Mondrian. White alludes to the gallery wall on which the paintings hang, an appropriation of the nothingness surrounding them.
The significance of colours is historically driven, its ostensibly subliminal messaging containing ideological, societal factors. In western tradition, white is, of course, associated with purity, in the garments of both the bride and of Jesus. The white lily is a symbol of Mary and the white dove of the Holy Spirit. In parts of the far east and Africa, as well as medieval Europe, however, it is the colour of mourning, the preponderance of light replacing its absence.
The white flag signifies surrender or truce and is thus a recognisable symbol of peace (though during the Bourbon restoration of 1818-1830, it was the colour of the French national flag). The sculptural tradition of carving marble in its flawless whiteness derives from our love of the loss of pigment from brightly-painted classical sculptures – an aesthetic with its origins in a misconception.
In twentieth-century modernism, white played a significant role in the origins and developments of non-figuration, important for new “purity” or “nothingness” in, for example, Malevich, Lissitsky (famously representing the counterrevolutionary white armies), Kandinsky, Mondrian, Hepworth, Kline, Riley and Ryman, for whom white is the primary determining characteristic.
The artists in White incorporate whiteness in a number of directions, both formal and conceptual.
Image: Courtesy of the Golden Thread Gallery, photograph by Simon Mills.