Black and white are not only two opposite poles, but also two complementary elements that cannot exist without each another, and engender the entire scale of colors. In this sense, with their aesthetic and conceptual power, black and white have been a source of inspiration for artists throughout history.
The exhibition “Siyah-Beyaz” (Black-White) at the C.A.M Gallery, Nişantaşı, is a great opportunity to witness the power of the two principal shades through different artistic disciplines. Works by Ahmet Elhan, Cem Turgay, Peter Hristoff, Murat Germen, Mehmet Kısmet, Sevim Sancaktar and Mahmut Celayir come together to reflect different aspects of the theme “black and white,” varied responses simultaneously balanced in great harmony. The exhibition can be viewed through June 25.
“I was fed up with the colors of life when I decided to organize the exhibition,” says Sevil Binat, gallery owner, in an interview with Today’s Zaman, explaining: “I felt that my soul needed some peace and everything seemed too colorful to me. Then I wanted to shelter myself within black and white by purifying them from all the other colors. So this is how the exhibition came to life.”
“What’s so nice about the exhibition is that the first thing that comes to mind in the question of black and white is photography,” says Germen, whose exhibited work addresses the question of exceptionality. “However, the works at the exhibition are not confined to photography. Apart from that, this exhibition has been very meaningful for me because normally I don’t shoot black and white, so it’s been a different kind of work for me as well. But in general the works in the exhibition are not conceptual works but also aesthetically and compositionally powerful works,” he states.
According to artist Hristoff, “For a painter, working in black and white refers to a more graphical style, and there is a graphical quality in my works here too. When teaching painting we always tell the students not to use black, or to use black along with other colors. Actually I had started to question myself about this much earlier than the exhibition: I never use black in my oil paintings, and can I use black in my paintings in such a way that it wouldn’t look like black? So I started to work on this series in 2007 and my works in the exhibition refer to that series and that question.”
For Sancaktar, who departs from her usual subject matter of damaged billboards displaying urban advertisements in her works, the essential point about the usage of color or black and white is related to what the work itself needs. “The photograph tells what it itself wants,” she says, continuing: “At the beginning the usage of black and white in photography was a kind of obligation, but today it has turned into a kind of language. Though today it is usually considered traditional or classic, black and white is essentially related to the nature of the work.”
Simplicity, contrast and balance
The power of black and white arises from the fact that it bears many concepts within itself, such as simplicity, contrast and balance. “When you reduce your colors to black and white you minimize your mode of expression and your message becomes clearer,” says Germen, “because it’s purified from all the other details and additional information and the artist gains the opportunity to express his or her discourse in a simple way.”
“It also has an ironic aspect,” notes Hristoff. “It is usually assumed that black and white reflects reality, but that’s not the case. You can manipulate it as well. So it naturally bears a contrast within itself, which is very significant for me too because I use black and white very symbolically in my works. For instance, in Christianity black represents evil forces and white represents good forces and these two are always used together. The clothing of religious officers is often black with white collars. The façades of the churches are black and white. We can see this in painting as well, so there is always a balance along with the idea of contrast.”
Germen draws attention to the intermediary colors between black and white, which are the main actors in this balance. “There are two opposite ends, but at the same time there are lots of grey values in between,” he says, “and they are the conditions of assuring this balance: to keep these grey tones as vivid as possible.”
This view is elaborated on by Sancaktar: “It also refers to the state of being open to alternatives.”
Emphasizing the conceptual and aesthetic wealth of these shades, Binat notes that the exhibition can continue with further projects. “We have seen that this is not an idea to be exhausted at one exhibition,” she says. “I am sure that new works can be created departing from these ideas and new exhibitions can be realized with new and different disciplines.”