OU blog

Personal Blogs

Richard Walker

New blog post

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 22 Feb 2015, 15:43

Recently the Belgian Artist Frederik De Wilde exhibited a square blacker than any human being has ever seen before. Blackboards look black to us but actually reflect as much as 10% of the light falling on them. De Wilde's black square reflects 0.01% - one thousand times less.

There is an impressive image here. New Scientist magazine have described it as an attempt to paint nothing.

The work is a reflection of the celebrated Black Square that the Russian Malevich showed in St Petersburg in 1915. The image above is an image of Malevich's work that I found in Wikimedia Commons. This painting had huge influence at the time and I believe at the end of his life the artist had it hanging in his bedroom. Today it is in a fragile state (with the black foreground crazing to reveal the white below), and in another echo from the past De Wilde's NanoBlck-Sqr #1, which uses carbon nanotubes on a white frame, is so delicate that you are only permitted to view it under supervision.

But neither Malevich nor De Wilde have captured what nothing looks like. The blind have a better understanding, which you can share. What do you see round the back of your head? You've no eyes there, so you just saw (or didn't) nothing. And it's not a bit like black.

This might seem trivial or frivolous, but it's not at all. I have a big blind spot (nearly half my vision) and people ask me frequently what I see there. They expect it must be a black patch. But it's not: it's nothing. That's very hard to explain. And impossible to paint. It wouldn't be an empty canvas, a sort of visual equivalent of John Cage's composition 4'33''. And it wouldn't be a black square. It would have to not exist.



Permalink Add your comment
Share post



New comment

Putting aside your issue with your vision, which of course is very important, I fail to see how any person can get excited about a black square. In my humble opinion this is no different to whoemer the 'artist' was a number of years ago who piled a load of bricks on a floor and claimed it to be a modern art masterpiece. He/she charged hundreds of thousands of pounds for it. And of course some idiot paid for it.  If you put down a frame in front of a two year old child and gave them a load of black paint, I am pretty sure they would come up with something equally thrilling. This whole thing about putting together a load of utter rubbish, claiming it as art and charging a fortune for it is a total con. However, the so-called artsy-fartsy experts who wander around galleries, champagne glass in hand, mumbling about what the artist was trying to achieve, in their pretentious manner are hysterically funny. Tracey Emin et al must be giggling while they count their money in their dishevelled bedrooms.

Richard Walker

New comment

I'm not plugging either of these as a great work of art, but I am interested in them as expressions of an idea, and they succeeded in making me wonder if there is a sort of visual equivalent to "The Sound of Silence".