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Inspire me - 20 April 2017

Monochrome at home?

White walls tend get a lot of stick. Sometimes seen as an unimaginative, generic way to display art, gallerists that rely on an all-white aesthetic have been criticised as too safe, too soporific, or just plain dull. Increasingly, exhibition spaces are ditching the familiar white-wash, and replacing it with patterned wallpaper, bright colours and innovative design. Recently, the Tate Modern plumped for dark blue walls for their Georgia O’Keeffe show, heralding a move towards gallery interiors that are meant to shock, surprise and excite through their design.

Despite this shift, the home continues to be a place where the use of white is hotly contested. Insert ‘white’, ‘interiors’ and ‘debate’ into Google, and you’re faced with a multitude of blog posts that lambast or celebrate the qualities of a white space in equal measure. Whilst some promote an entirely white home, encouraging it as a means to declutter, inject serenity, and add additional light into your space, others view white as trendy, unrealistic and ultimately, boring. As the good people at Design Sponge discuss in their insightful article, ‘The White Wall Controversy’, it is often vibrant or colourful interiors that are now seen as being truly creative. Colour on the walls is just the beginning of these online debates, as artwork, frames, furniture and soft furnishings all come under fire.

With these arguments raging across the interior design blogosphere, we started to think about the impact of black and white art within the home. And we’ve got to say, we’re a fan of the monochrome look. From our white stands at the fairs that soften louder artworks and strengthen quieter ones, to our gallerists selling startling monochrome pieces, black and white artworks have a power and originality which can transform a tired, overlooked or busy space. As many of our gallerists will tell you, a black or white piece doesn’t have to be safe, boring or simplistic. Rather, it’s a bold, brave way to add that something extra to your home, whether you’re looking to make a statement, calm down a room, or just try something new.

Claire Cutts, Mountain 02, PrintFlo from Smithson Gallery explains how monochrome art has the capacity to anchor a room; allowing breathing space within an interior, welcoming colours in other areas and proving simple yet bold. She uses the soothing work of Bristol-based artist Claire Cutts as a prime example of how monochrome can produce a calming effect — and in this case, subtly bring the outdoors in. Rather than portraying bright greens, snow capped peaks and blue skies, Claire’s works prove almost abstract in their black and white form. ‘Claire’s screen prints retain a simplicity of colour, line and form, in order to encapsulate the beauty of peaceful mountainous landscapes’, explains Flo. ‘In these works Claire also cleverly plays with the way light can change a monochrome image by adding an iridescent ink, allowing light to scatter and dance over the print’. These savvy, simple touches from Claire adds another dimension to her captivating prints, which would be lost if they were depicted in colour.

Joy Trpkovic, Black Sea Spikes, SculptureIn a similar way, Flora Teh-Morris from Mint Art Gallery stresses how monochrome adds a touch of intrigue to the usually bright works of one of her artists, fluctuating between delicate and thoughtful to quirky, playful pieces. Joy Trpkovic’s choice to opt for a starker palette in her beautiful ‘Black Sea Spikes’ leads to these curious little sculptures, which use gritty black stoneware to enclose delicate fronds of white porcelain. As Flora explains, ‘the purity of the very white porcelain against the black clay makes a very strong visual statement compared to the gentle subtlety of using a mixture of colours’. By displaying the sculpture on a mirrored plate, in a cluster or on a coloured wall, a wide variety of effects can be made.

Damilola Odusote, Youtube MuralBut black and white doesn’t just reinforce delicacy — it can also be a show-stopper, as we see in another artist that Mint Art Gallery represents. The striking work of Damilola Odusote, who has recently finished a huge mural in the reception of YouTube’s new HQ building in London, is drawn directly onto the office walls with thick black pen. As Flora explains, ‘no one does monochrome like Damilola’, and his illustrative and expressive line is a testament to the simple yet bold power of black marks on a white wall. As well as his statement pieces, Damilola also produces smaller pen and ink works which can be hung at home, which have the same effect  just in miniature.

Stephen A David, Graphic Line, PrintFor some, black and white pieces create just the right tone within a room — particularly if it already has colourful, captivating artworks that rival for attention. Adding a minimalist, simple print or pen and ink drawing like Stephen A. David’s ‘Graphic Line’, courtesy of The Art Movement, to a brighter hang adds the perfect amount of complexity and sophistication to an otherwise busy space. His cartoon-like sketches are strengthened by their heavy application and dark tones, yet have an innate simplicity; as Stephen himself states, he has mastered the art of ‘knowing when to stop’.

Benjamin Warner, From the shard, PaintingFinally, perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of a black and white artwork is the nostalgia that they can convey. The work of Benjamin Warner has a timeless, magical quality, as if gazing down on London on an early morning. True, his work almost borders into grey with its charcoal-like tones; but it undoubtedly harnesses the impact of monochrome, signifying the early morning light through smudges of white paint. As Tracey from Lighthouse Gallery explains, Benjamin is influenced by the smoggy nocturnes of Whistler and Turner, who depicted city and landscapes within a newly industrialised country. In the same vein, the monochrome tones in Benjamin’s work capture a bleakness whilst still suggesting lightness; a paradox that black and white works often manage to convey.

So whether you’re looking for a touch of nostalgia, a powerful statement, a sophisticated flourish or some added tranquillity, don’t overlook monochrome pieces when considering your next arty purchase. It might be just the addition that your colourful home has been craving. 

Discover more of the magnificent monochrome pieces available on our online shop here »

CODY CHOI, Dancer: Flora #1, Photography, Degree Art. DAN HILLIER, Ellipsis, print. LUCY BOYDELL, Wild Hare, Work on paper

Dancer: Flora #1


Wild Hare

Degree Art

Liberty Gallery

Cricket Fine Art


Silkscreen print

Work on paper




Homepage image: Jane Emberson, 'Hekate(detail), Acrylic on canvas, 90 x 90 cm, £1,750.00, Art Dog London. 

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