• gerard van weyenbergh

Luminosity in the color black, Soulages & Rothko

What is there beyond black? Is black the extreme limit of the visible? From Mark Rothko's philosophical journey towards black's luminosity to Pierre Soulages' "overseas," our show borrows their views on this enigmatic color from two major artists.

Soulages operated a revolution of our look on a color of which it has become, today, inseparable: black. The artist has never ceased to exploit and explore this unique and mysterious chromatic object, varying materials, techniques, lights, or even the works' spatial arrangement.

What is unique in Pierre Soulages' painting is that he apprehends light through the darkness. Black is his instrument, and light is his material. Light as a pictorial material is quite paradoxical and, at the same time, rich in possibilities. He apprehends black as a fertilizing black, which suddenly shows a material black, which gives rise to visibility. (Anne-Camille Charliat)

A metaphysical journey into nothingness, where all possibility of seeing seems abolished, Soulages' painting takes the viewer to the other side of the dark, as Lewis Carroll took Alice and her reader to the other side of the mirror. Behind the black, this is where "the beyond-black" is, a space created by Soulages outside the traditional territories of the visible.

The birth of the beyond-black is 1979. Before, Soulages used of course, black, but rather as a color of contrast, since there is blue, red in his paintings. And, from 1979, he completely covered his canvases with a single pigment, black, which, on the other hand, was not treated in a monochrome way. Pierre Encrevé characterized this black as a mono-pigmentary pigment, but not monochrome. Mono-pigmentary with chromatic variations: mono-pigmentary in the sense that there is only one pigment, but which reveals colors, colors which are the effects of light, in interaction with this black which is worked in textures. There are opacities, transparencies (Anne-Camille Charliat)

to listen in French

Listen to Pierre Soulages: "Since the origins of painting, there is black "44 MINS


Pierre Soulages: "Since the origins of painting, there is black"

Anne-Camille Charliat helps us see more clearly in the artist's theories and in this terra incognita and obscura that is his painting.

Soulages says that black is a violent color, which encourages internalization. It is the richest color possible, an intense color, which relates to our origins. (Anne-Camille Charliat)

The other great artist of black is painter Mark Rothko.

Religiosity and philosophically, Rothko's painting has notably aimed to explore interior life, through large painted quadrilaterals that have become his visual signature. Besides the brilliant colors of part of his work, influenced by Matisse and the Nietzschean concept of clarity, Rothko also exploited the color black. The artist, gradually darkening his palette throughout his career, seemed to be heading towards a luminosity of black: to meet, perhaps consciously, Pierre Soulages.

When Rothko received the order for fourteen canvases for a chapel in Houston, he broke entirely with his practice, with his classic palette for rather dark shades: red, brown, burgundy. We are very, very close to black, and he seeks to exploit the reflective and luminous power of black. (Anne-Camille Charliat)

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