It’s a misconception that monochrome is black and white so, ‘what is monochrome?’. It’s a painting or a photograph which uses only one base colour.
Artists have experimented with monochrome for hundreds of years to test limitations and potentials of paintings. whether the subject be natural or geometric and in composition and tonality.
Simplicity and spiritual purity in white
For some artists the use of monochrome reduces the painting or photograph to it’s most simple form. Allowing the focus to be on physical elements; subject, composition, texture, pattern or how it was made. In the 1930’s Ben Nicholson created an important and notable series of white reliefs which is a great example of monochrome works. On consideration of a pure white piece of art one might consider this to be rather dull. however the use of shape and form creates shadows drawing the viewers eye in to a peacefulness and purity beyond the noise of our everyday lives.
I don’t think we can overlook the reference and association of white being the colour of angels, pureness and goodness. The symbolism within white is too strong to ignore and does this once again bring peacefulness and a moment of escapism to the viewer? There is the feeling of nothingness with a white work however at it’s opposing end one might feel whole as a result of this nothingness?
Kazimi Malevich is believed to have been the turning point for many artists which changed the course of art to modern art. In 1915 Malevich’s iconic Black Square exerted huge influence over the next generation of artists. But what was behind this significant shift from his previous styles? There is talk that it was one of rebellion against tradition and politics. The painting was exhibited in the top corner of the room, where Russian icons were usually displayed. So the question is was it rebellion or was he saying this is an iconic change in the direction of art and I want to be responsible for it?
Though some would argue that the Black Square is not monochrome and more definitely a black square. As with all art, and beyond the academics, it’s open to interpretation and what the viewer wants to see.