Barnard is pleased to present Monochrome– a group exhibition featuring painting, photography, drawing, video installation and collage by selected artists.

Monochrome is a term used to indicate a work of art composed entirely in black in white, shades of grey, or a single hue. This limitation of colour palette has proved a powerful tool for artists across the centuries, both in the way it works to accentuate the other formal elements of a work – such as line, composition or tone – and in the opportunities it provides to create works of a more meditative or contemplative nature. Some of the earliest examples of works of art specifically commissioned in monochrome were those created by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, producing stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts exclusively in monochrome, or grisaille. Believing colour to be superfluous and overly stimulating for the senses, works were to be created in monochrome so as to encourage quiet and divine contemplation.

Thus, beginning in the 1100s, this view of colour as unnecessarily distracting and the turn to reduced colour palettes in the search for a purer and more direct connection with the divine power of art came into full force in the work of 20th century modern artists, especially those pioneering groundbreaking abstract modes of painting, such as Kazimir Malevich, Pablo Picasso, Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein. Here, the search for the divine was not so much a religious gesture as an assertion of the purity of the formal elements of art, of an art for art’s sake. Monochrome allowed artists to circumvent illusion and celebrate the essential fact of painting, to emphasize the picture surface, and to intensify the effects of the formal elements and spatial relationships within a work.

It is fascinating how much variety can exist within monochromatic works despite the limitation of colour, a fact which is made very much apparent in the paintings, photographs, drawings and collages collected for this exhibition. The reduction of colour only serves to heighten the idiosyncracities of individual artists: their use of brushwork, mark making, gradations of tone, and their compositional logic. For some artists, such as Jono Dry, monochrome enables the hyperealistic illusion of a black and white photograph; while for others the effect is to push a figurative artistic language even further into abstraction, as is the effect in work by Alexia Vogel. The exhibition is not limited only to works in black and white, as is evident in work by Nina Liebenberg, who focuses on the colour blue, or Gretchen van der Byl, who contrasts black with shades of deep green. For artists such as Dominique Edwards and Tom Cullberg, working in a more abstracted mode, monochrome allows for the heightened dynamism of line, texture and gesture.

Monochrome runs from the 22 January to the 26 February, 2019 and features works by Tom Cullberg, Lien Botha, Svea Josephy, Alexia Vogel, Pierre le Riche, Gretchen van der Byl, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Dominique Edwards, Alastair Whitton, Sepideh Mehraban, Nina Liebenburg, Robyn Penn, Connor Cullinan, Vanessa Cowling, Jono Dry, MJ Lourens, Mia Thom, Richard Penn and Katherine Spindler.