... On moonless
nights, water and sand are one shade of black,
and the creamy foam rising with moaning noises
charges like a spectral army in a poem toward the bluffs
before it subsides dreamily to gather again.
I thought of going down there to watch it a while,
feeling as though it could turn me into fog,
or that the wind would start to speak a language
and change me --...
(from The History of my Heart, Robert Pinsky)
Following an inborn preference for austerity and simplicity I usually work on paper and in black and white. In the course of ten years, my drawings gradually became darker, until at some point three years ago I was working on huge dark expanses using the deep velvety black of finely ground siberian coal to make a background in which silvery ghosts of clouds and waves in graphite powder shimmered vaguely. I enjoyed the slow, almost meditative way of working the technique required and in several ways I achieved in these black drawings what I had been aiming at ever since I started drawing. The images have an open character. Although they have an identifiable subject, the images do not aggressively demand attention and they are not immediately knowable. The images themselves are not constant, they vary with the shifting of the light during the day. The images invite the viewer in, invite him to let his eyes wander and to gradually dissolve in a calm and silent world. The materials I worked with, powders rather than crayons or paint, had unpleasant effects. The air in my studio was, despite incessant airing, dense with graphite and coal particles and at times it made me wheeze and gasp for breath. It was impossible to keep anything clean for more than a day or so. The tiny black particles slowly settled on every uncovered surface, leaving a greasy, greyish film. The drawings themselves posed problems of presentation. Their fragility demands that they are framed and protected from straying elbows, wayward pocketbooks, and curious fingers by a sheet of glass. However, by putting glass in front of a black surface what you end up with is a black mirror. Unless you flood a black drawing that is framed behind glass with a huge amount of light from above or aside at a blunt angle, the image is superseded by your own reflection and that of the space behind you. Apart from these practical inconveniences, another problem emerged when I was working on my third consecutive series of these black drawings. Black in itself is where things end. It offers no starting points except escape. Leap out of the black hole and start at a more or less unrelated point. Which is what I did. I am still not using colour, but I abandoned the black surfaces and returned to a lighter world. The drawing you see here is the last one I did in black, and it was done two years ago.
This text was written for the art-auction 'Dead Darlings'(July 2, W139, Amsterdam)
Some of my other black drawings can be seen in the 'gallery', in the section 2004.
The page 'argumenten' has a text (in Dutch) on the black series 'Argumenten voor een heilige dag'.