Colour: In Black and White

“I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.” – Arvo Part

Those of you who are familiar with my work will know how passionate I am about colour and how, in both my paintings and photography,  I usually take the approach that the more colour (and the more vibrant) the better!

But waking up the other day, to find a magical world of  white outside my window following a night of gentle snow fall, made me realise beauty is not always about colour.

This is further illustrated by many photos of Skiathos blanketed in snow, that  appeared on the internet this week. There was a particularly beautiful album by Victoria of ‘Skiathos Books’ :

which shows a very different Greek island to the one we’re all more familiar with:

There is an atmospheric quality in monochromatic images that a full colour palette doesn’t always capture as successfully. One only has to look at old sepia tinted photos to be instantly transported back in time to a bygone era.  Black and white photos fare better over decades but the chemical processes used in colour photography have developed so dramatically over the years that colour photographs can quickly become ‘dated’. They also don’t retain colour well and sometimes images fade away altogether. How many of us have old albums filled with now faded or orange tinted snapshots, such as this one?

Yvonne, Sharjah U.A.E. 1973

Oil paintings age well and gain an evermore pleasing patina through the centuries as do watercolours (so long as they’re kept out of direct sunlight). Acrylics, modern  synthetic ‘plastic’ paints, although often considered gaudy and garish by comparison, enjoy widespread use in popular contemporary art today and  seem to perfectly reflect the modern ‘plastic’ age we live in. They will undoubtedly wear well and are likely to retain their vibrancy for years to come. Fine examples can be found at the fabulous exhibition of David Hockney’s colourful landscapes, currently showing at London’s Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly. See info and video: ‘A BIGGER PICTURE ‘

Winter Timber 2009 © David Hockney

Alongside a staggering amount of his traditional paintings in acrylics and oils, are many of his latest ‘paintings’ created by using the very latest technology; his Ipad. See him in action here:  VIDEO

In this digital age, artists and photographers can not only create art (with apps such as BRUSHES):

Here are my first Ipad attempts (both of which took under a minute!):

but also, with easy access to software (Photoshop et al) they can manipulate images in almost every way possible too: to correct or enhance colour and tonal values,  ‘age’ an image artificially and even remove all trace of colour altogether! But a good original black and white photograph, taken with sufficient attention to light, tone and contrast, will continue not only to stand the test of time but also lend a uniquely timeless quality to its subject, quite unlike any other medium.

It was for this reason I decided  to shoot Villa Nicara, inside and out, in black and white.

“Black and white are absolute… expressing the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquility, and unlimited profundity”. – Shiko Munakata

My aim was to try to capture something of the more elusive  moments, such as when the fierce afternoon sun, filtering through the lattice pergola and the muslin curtains wafting gently in the onshore breeze, creates dancing shadows on the stark white walls. Moments when, in the cool dim interior, tiny dust particles float in rays of softly diffused sunlight.  I wanted to provide a real sense of the villa’s stillness, its peace and serenity, and, by capturing such moments in time, hopefully I evoke a sense of everlasting ‘timelessness’ for the generations to come – :

They serve another purpose too for, shivering here now as I am, in a dull, cold and snowy London, I only have to look at these pictures to be instantly transported and feel once again the warmth and tranquility of my island home…….Oh! Roll on spring!

14 thoughts on “Colour: In Black and White

  1. As ever Yvonne a fabulous series of photographs and a good read, just loved it. As an artist it’s just too easy to add just about every colour there is and I’m guilty here! Just for a change I have currently a large, by my standards, 75 x50cm canvas on my easel. It is painted in black white & blue only. It can be found on my website. Technically it’s a great challenge and the weather has stuck at 0 Celsius since early January making the studio almost uninhabitable. Luv Phil & Barbie

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    • Wow, Phil that’s a magnificent painting! (see Phil’s WIP here:http://www.meltemiart.com) You do have these classical buildings down to a tee. I’m really battling with a (colourful)Venetian architecture painting right now!) but now, seeing yours, perhaps I should have tried a limited palette too… So good to hear from you, as always, but keep warm (just close your eyes and imagine sunny Skopelos…that should help!) Much love to you, and Barbara too. Y xx

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  2. As usual, your blog is always a delight, and the black and white pictures
    of your villa are really lovely.
    I will be in London and attending an event on the 18th to see David Hockney,
    looking forward to that.
    Yes, Skiathos in the snow is certainly unusual, I think I prefer the sunny pictures,
    we are cold here, but I gather in London it is colder.

    Lots of love to you, Sandra
    and congrats on selling your “turkey”

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    • Thank you Sandra! I would love to meet up when you’re in London – if your time permits – it would be so nice to see you….I’ll pm you my no. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Hockney, just make sure you allow plenty of time! Best Wishes, Y xx

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  3. Beautiful images, Yvonne (and that one, you and the camels, WOW) – Amazing how snow not only immediately shifts the world of color but it also immediately shifts the world of sound, rendering it almost alien in it’s silence! Black and white is so evocative of color and your photos of Villa Nicara truly emanate it’s vibrancy! Oh, it makes me want to be there, in the shade embraced by the scent of sea air and jasmine, the wind cooling a sun soaked skin. I can’t wait for May. And what an incredibly beautiful place to sit and write!!! Oh, you have it all, Yvonne … thank you for sharing it with us!

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  4. Brilliant Yvonne so sorry i missed David Hockney s exhibition the colours i love.
    So amazing the black and white the reflections the depth and atmosphere
    Sorry i missed the snow
    The ipad paintings are brilliant looks so much fun. How i wish to get to Skiathos this year. How are you doing with your Middle Eastern artworks for the exhibition.
    Thank you so much for inspiring us to try news things in life, continuously.
    Your blog is like a piece of fresh pomegranate so fleshy and the taste so nourishing.
    lots of love Susan

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    • Haha! Thanks, Mary. It was only afterwards that I learned these ‘gentle’ (or so I thought) giants can spit viciously and that their spittle can transmit syphilis (apparently)!! Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

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  5. It looks as though you are having fun with the ipad 🙂 Wonderfull images of Villa Nicara and I agree that Black & White can be so effective. I think it works well for portraits on occasion too….it seems to add an aura of mystery I think. Vic’s album is terrific, a very different view of Skiathos indeed…..but, I look forward to seeing the island in spendid colour 😉 As for those old faded shots, I sigh because I am trying to use one for reference right now which is proving to be quite a challenge! I hope you are well and that you enjoyed David Hockney’s exhibition, I would have like to have seen that one XX

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    • Aw Thanks, Chrissy, lovely to hear from you! Hope all’s well with you both. Intrigued to see what you’re working on – you always surprise us with your wonderful work! Yes, you would have loved the Hockney (I think!). I wasn’t sure at first but it took me a good two and half hours to get round and by the end I was totally smitten! I particularly loved the film sequences – totally mesmerising.I would have enjoyed going with you and hearing your thoughts….so remember what I told you, if ever you want to go – I’m just a phone call away…. Good luck with the painting. Much love, Yvonne x

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