In some ways there couldn’t be a larger contrast; Ordovas Art is located in expensive ground floor space in a new office block in the heart of Mayfair, while in Old Street in Hoxton, Charlie Smith London is hidden on the 2nd floor above the Reliance pub. Without apparent collaboration, however, these two galleries are running parallel curated exhibitions, one on the colour blue; the other on the colour black.
Both words have aesthetic and physiological connotations. Blue is the colour of trust, peace, loyalty and integrity as well as conservatism and frigidity, with image of blue skies and blue seas being both soothing and also life-threatening. Black on the other hand, at this time of year, is the colour of Halloween, witches, spiders, bats and wizards – it represents mystery, the sinister and the secretive. It is a colour of things hidden from the world. In Shoreditch, it is the uber-trendy colour, following on from the tradition of designers such as Chanel.
Many artists chose to explore the constraints and the opportunities of a restricted palette of colours, often black or blue, for example the graphic work of Erik Bulatov, and black and white photographs can often have more power, more light and shade and more texture than coloured ones.
“The Big Blue” was a 1988 cult film on the friendship and sporting rivalry between the two free divers Jaques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca and Mayol’s search for love, family, wholeness and the meaning of life and death. The current art exhibition “The Big Blue”, conceived by Damien Hirst and curated by Ordovas, explores the way that artists are influenced by, and interpret, the sea with work that spans from the 2nd century AD to the 20th across several countries and cultures including artist such as Picasso, Gonzalez-Torres, Ernst, Klein, Bacon, Mondrian and Courbet.
Zavier Ellis has curated “Black Paintings” at Charlie Smith London with one work by Ian Davenport from 1995, but otherwise new work from the last two years by artists such as Gavin Turk, Florian Heinke, Joe Machine and Alex Gene Morrison, some exploring texture, sheen and pattern using the colour black, other making points about black moments in society.
Two different exhibitions in different environments, with a different cast of artists, but both exploring similar themes of how artists respond to a colour and how black or blue can mean something deeper. In the same vein, Kara Walker at her current exhibition at Victoria Miro at Wharf Road also uses a limited palette, often both black and blue, to explore tensions and power plays of racial and gender relations.
Photographs of “The Big Blue are copyright Ordovas Art.