center for contemporary non-objective art

COLORIFIC January 2012 colorific reportage starts after ca 33 min

École des Arts de Braine-l’Alleud
47, Rue du Château, B-1420 Braine-l’Alleud
tél : 0032 (0)2 384 61 03,

opening hours
Tuesday - Friday 14.00 – 19.00, Saturday 10.00 – 14.00

21/02/2012 – 25/02/2012, 23/03/2012, 03/04/2012 – 14/04/2012, 01/05/2012

Greet Billet (BE), Marc Chevalier (FR), Cedric Christie (UK), Krysten Cunningham (US), Cheryl Donegan (US), Javier Fernandez (ES), Kyle Jenkins (AU), localStyle (US), Pieter Laurens Mol (NL), Roland Orépük (FR),
Paul Raguenes (FR), Benjamin Rivière (FR), Gerwald Rockenschaub (AT),
Léopoldine Roux (FR), Ingrid Maria Sinibaldi (FR), Tilman (DE), Jan Maarten Voskuil (NL), Dan Walsh (US)

Petra Bungert


Even though artists, architects and artisans have aimed to enchant us with their use and application of color(s) almost since the dawn of time, the world is still divided into those who love and those who loathe color. And there are also most likely those who simply don’t care.

From Aristotle to Newton, Goethe, Kant, Baudelaire, Wittgenstein, Kandinsky and Albers – to name just a few – the universe of colors has enflamed the passions of philosophers, scientists, theorists and artists alike. Brilliant and not so brilliant minds have written and discussed the form, function, validity and purpose of color in countless books, essays and other texts. “Every theory argues its own presuppositions and with these paints the world.” (Manlio Brusatin. A History of Colors. Shambhala, 1991) Notions and perceptions of color range from praise to condemnation, depreciation and downgrading of color as trivial, decadent, low, deceptive, superficial, misleading, dangerous and so forth. Strong stuff, no?

So what’s the root of this negative reaction? As David Batchelor argues brilliantly in his book Chromophobia, a fear of corruption or contamination through color, has lurked within Western culture since ancient times: “Chromophobia manifests itself in the many and varied attempts to purge colour from culture, to devalue colour, to diminish its significance, to deny its complexity. More specifically: this purging of colour is usually accomplished in one of two ways. In the first, colour is made out to be the property of some ‘foreign’ body – usually the feminine, the oriental, the primitive, the infantile, the vulgar, the queer or the pathological. In the second, colour is relegated to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential or the cosmetic. In one, colour is regarded as alien and therefore dangerous; in the other, it is perceived merely as a secondary quality of experience, and thus unworthy of serious consideration. Colour is dangerous, or it is trivial or both … Either way, colour is routinely excluded from the higher concerns of the Mind. It is other to the higher values of Western culture. Or perhaps culture is other to the higher values of colour. Or colour is the corruption of culture.” (David Batchelor. Chromophobia. Reaktion Books, 2000)

In any event, given the omnipresence and importance of color(s) in all aspects of existence, the phenomenon of chromophobia is even more surprising. Or maybe nobody asked regular people, only the intelligentsia? Either way – provided our visual faculties remain intact and nobody messes with the big bulb, from the age of around four months (until then we actually do see in B/W), we are and will be surrounded, affected and even conditioned by color 24/24 throughout our lives until death does us part. Our sensory perception of color might be fleeting and often subconscious, but the fact is that almost everything we see, breathe, smell, touch, taste, consume has color – even our dreams; or at least mine do.

Colors continue to be attributed to and utilized for any kind of purpose ranging from ceremonial, to national, religious, political, seasonal, and gender- and health-related. They are used to adorn, to decorate, to empower or weaken, to cover or camouflage, to highlight or mark, to attract, to seduce or repel, to calm or invigorate, to tease and to test, to communicate (to alarm, to signal, to structure, to regulate: traffic, maps, flags, electric circuits, etc.). Colors are capable of triggering hunger and thirst and memories. Color and color terms feature prominently in literature as well as in our daily vocabulary. We got ourselves color classifications, codes and theories, color therapies, and so on. No matter what form/shape color takes (physical, physiological, natural, artificial, industrial, chemical, symbolic, moral, natural, surface, permeating, inherent, relational, coating, immaterial, dependant, autonomous), almost nothing escapes it – not even shadow. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In short, color can be found in every possible nook and cranny of existence and appears almost as essential a constituent as the very air we breathe.

So given all the above, colorific’s central theme is clearly not new to any practice. Within the visual arts recent group exhibitions like Color Fields (Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, 2010–2011), La couleur en avant (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice, 2011), and Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today (MoMA, New York, 2008), as well as monographic exhibitions like Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay (Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York City, 2011) and Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage (BAM Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, UC Berkeley, 2011) – just to name a few – continue to explore this splendid yet controversial attribute/quality as do artists, art historians, researchers and many others.

So what then distinguishes colorific from previous curatorial investigations of this topic?

For one, colorific features exclusively international contemporary, artists (in total 18). Although these artists belong to different generations, are at various stages of their careers and do not belong to one group, but rather pursue individual investigations of primarily reductive art, architecture and media, their work and artistic practice is nevertheless based on certain common denominators: for one, all are deeply rooted in the ‘here and now’ – taking their cue from the constituents of our everyday life and environment; all share the mutual aim to use their work to enhance the understanding of culture and daily life; and all attach a special significance to the retinal, the sensuality of perception, and the relationship between viewer, architecture, and art object. However, given the scope of the topic as well as the enormous spectrum of positions within the field, the selection of featured artists is by no means representative but rather a point of departure – a glimpse into the hot-tub.

For two, instead of presenting existing works and/or a didactic parcours through the vast country of color, colorific will facilitate the creation and development of new physical and intellectual color-related manifestations in the form of large and medium-size indoor and outdoor site-specific installations and media works. As in most of the group exhibitions previoiusly organized in Belgium and abroad cooperation between the respective artists and their propositions will be encouraged as will a strong dialogue with the students of Braine-L’Alleud (who will assist in facilitating the works in question), the participants in the planned conferences and the public. This in turn aims to generate a broad range of meaningful exchanges and the substantive production of new connotations, insights and perspectives within the contemporary discourse about color.

Taking Pieter Laurens Mol’s work entitled New Amsterdam Modernist Rays (Mondriaan’s Red Thread of 1944) as a cue and point of departure, colorific addresses and challenges our primary sensual and sensory faculties and sensibilities. It invites us on a journey in which everyone can participate.

colorific aims to create a dynamic real-time and real-place experience. It demands our mental, intellectual and physical collaboration – but in return offers us complete freedom to see for ourselves, to educate our eyes and to develop our senses thus giving viewers an excellent opportunity to shift from passive spectatorship to ‘spectator-authorship’ and in the process not only review and re-evaluate the function, potential, relevance and validity of color for their own lives but also discover a fresh perspective on the reciprocal transfers between the material realities of art and life today. After all: “Seeing is a creative act. He who only looks doesn’t see. Seeing means reflecting, perceiving, and being aware. He who only looks doesn’t know. Seeing involves binding in all the senses … creating sense.” (Gottfried Honegger. Aphorismen. Zurich: Offizien Verlag, 2006)

In addition, Braine-L’Alleud will organize a series of conferences with international color specialists, color theorists and artists who will further investigate present-day conditions and realities in this field.

All in all, colorific will be an excellent opportunity to discover, explore and experience one’s true colors! Trust me, there is nothing more refreshing than immersion in a sea of colors. So let’s take the plunge then, shall we?

Petra Bungert, 2011

installation view 1 / ground floor

installation view 2 / ground floor

installation view 3 / ground floor

installation view 4 / ground floor

Pieter Laurens Mol & Paul Raguenes / 1. floor

Pieter Laurens Mol & Cheryl Donegan / 1. floor

Kyle Jenkins / 1. floor

Cedric Christie / 1. floor

Léopoldine Roux / 1. floor