Idiosyncratic Monochromes curated by Lorena Kloosterboer
When Didi Menendez, publisher of PoetsArtists, invited me to curate my very own special edition of her independent art magazine, I felt excited and honored, yet at the same time apprehensive at the thought of such a daunting task.
After long deliberation, I chose Idiosyncratic Monochromes as my theme and published a submission call for paintings that includes all subject matter in the realistic style in its broadest sense. I define ‘monochrome’ as using only one color and its tints, tones, and shades, but broaden the limited palette to include analogue color schemes—i.e., colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. My most important aim within the chosen color scheme is to showcase ‘idiosyncratic’ paintings—each piece needs to express a distinctive, unique, personal, and/or unusual quality.
Ancient Chinese monochromatic landscapes survive from as early as the 8th century, and monochrome painting has inspired many different cultures since. The best-known monochrome genre is the grisaille (from the French gris, meaning ‘gray’) which is a painting executed entirely in shades of gray or other neutral color. Best-known historic examples are the grisaille used in murals to imitate sculpture and on the outsides of the wings of Primitive Flemish triptychs. Notable masters using grisaille include Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Hans Memling, Jan van Eyck, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, and more recently Pablo Picasso and Chuck Close.
Over time, monochrome painting went in and out of vogue but became important again as an avant-garde art genre in the 20th century and it is still going strong today. Contemporary artists continue to reinvent new ways of using the restricted palette of a single color or limited palette of just a few hues in order to explore values and textures, as well as exploit the intense emotions these singular color schemes tend to evoke.
Color and Emotion
As sentient beings, we learn about color through experience, subconsciously associating each color with a personal thought, feeling, or specific memory. This partly explains why we passionately love one color and profoundly dislike another. Despite scientists and artists trying to ascribe universal attributes to specific hues, color preference and meaning remain enigmatically subjective—we all see, feel, describe, and remember color in a very personal way.
For many artists, the monochrome palette is an inspirational tool; a way to examine emotion, meaning, and symbolism as it relates to and is influenced by color. Those who are familiar with my paintings know that I often reduce my palette to achieve a so-called ton-sur-ton look in which similar hues elevate and reinforce the details of the subject matter, which, in contrast to a full-color version, would probably be much less prominent.
A monochromatic color scheme provides a strong sense of visual cohesion and color harmony, and places a strong emphasis on composition and contents. Instead of adding additional color, the artist can play with warm and cool variations of just one single or a select few pigments allowing for many variations in tone and value, and a deeper exploration of texture and detail.
What appeals to me in monochromatic artwork is its timeless allure. For this PoetsArtists edition I envisioned a tasteful and balanced collection of diverse paintings that would make it a real joy to the eye and a must-have art publication worthy of special edition status. This became both a joyous journey of discovery and a difficult curatorial process throughout which I continuously had to sternly remind myself of the end goal. I’m very grateful to all the artists who submitted their artwork.
I set out to select 25 pieces, but soon found myself overwhelmed by this self-imposed limitation—so I added a few more, and then again a few more, until finally reaching 37 in total—and yes, I shamelessly added one of my own pieces, just because… hey, I can.
While not all selected pieces are strictly monochromatic they all fit the key principles of what I consider to be successful idiosyncratic monochromes. Accompanying each painting, I write a little bit about the artist and also clarify my reasons for including the piece. Independently, each painting stands out for its individual beauty and depth, each piece has an interesting story to tell. Seen together as a collection, these paintings form an elegant and harmonious survey through the poetic expression of sublime color.
Antwerp, June 2017
Allan Gorman, Andres Castellanos, Anzhelika A. Doliba, Camille Engel, Chris Klein, Claus Word, David Cunningham, David Olivera, Gerd Lieder, Harold Zabady, Hisaya Taira, Jessica Nissen, Johan Abeling, Josh Tiessen, Josie McCoy, Judith Peck, Laura Shechter, Laura Tan, Laurence de Valmy, Lorena Pugh, Maria Mijares, Marie Cameron, Mark Heine, Mathieu Weemaels, Michael Nichols, Natalie Holland, Pam Hawkes, Peter Hess, Raoof Haghighi, Sharon Moody, Shelli Langdale, Simon Hennessey, Tatsuto Tomidokoro, Tenley DuBois, Tim Daly, Tom Mulliner, and Yana Beylinson.
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