Grey Matter

Mark Feary

No other colour is defined in quite the same manner as grey. It is intrinsically linked to its varied composition of white and black, and spans the full axis of their gradations. It is the colour most frequently accorded the adjective of murky, connotative of an in-between state; between two opposing extremities. Drawing exclusively on works held within the Artbank collection, the following pictorial focuses on a selection of works that emphasise the ongoing allure for artists to work within a reductionist palette. With reference to the centenary of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) and arcing forward to Robert Ryman’s expanded series of white paintings, Grey Matter assembles a number of works by Australian artists working within the vast greyscale between black and white. Conceptually bookmarked by the defining contributions by Malevich and Ryman, this selection platforms works of sculpture, painting, photography and video to acknowledge the pervasive potential of this palette constraint to be employed across mediums.

Vernon Ah Kee
Untitled 2000
synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 92 x 79 cm
Artbank collection, purchased 2003

These works emphasise conscious decisions with regard to tone, atmosphere and restraint, eliminating the spectrum and spectacle of colour in favour of the heightened amplification of contrast. There are various evocations at play here, from nostalgia for arcane printing and photographic technologies, systems of censorship, theatricality, binaries, and the omnipresence of concrete within the urban environment. But dominantly, these works dwell within and elucidate the indeterminable realm of the grey area, that space that acknowledges opposing perspectives and positions, and oscillates between them, acknowledging each yet siding with neither. Herein lies the gravity of grey as a shade and its reliance upon both the absence of light and its saturation. It is indeterminable, it is both, it is neither.


Read in full via the online issue