Black and white. The colours of the night. Artists have long portrayed the night in music, in poetry, in film, in painting. The night hides mysteries that cannot be fully told, that cannot be fully understood. I’ve had a special relationship with my paintings where colour creates the illusion of black and grey and white. This new work, Black and White No. 20 removes all colour, becomes more opaque, impenetrable. Like the night. Like a cold night.
Black and White No. 20. Oil painting on canvas. 36″ x 30″ (91 cm x 76 cm). Original painting by Jacques Descoteaux
Over the years, I’ve always come back to some of my favourite colours – for example, my Black and White series. A friend recently suggested that I start working in brighter colours than I had been using, that I “go grazy” as she said. Here are two pieces from a series in started working on – I’ll call it my Fuchsia series. I created four paintings over a few days, two of which have now gone to a new home.
I love the night, when the world falls asleep and the shadows come to life, with their mysteries and their surprises. The unknown lurks behind a tree or beyond a corner. The night can be a time of quiet meditation. For some, it can also be a frightful time. The night has inspired many musicians and painters and novelists and poets.
In music, a Nocturne is a short piece that evokes the night. Nocturnes tend to be quiet, often played on a single instrument. Chopin’s nocturnes may be the best known today, but Irish pianist and composer John Field is considered to be the originator of the nocturne.
In painting, the term Nocturne was used by American artist James Whistler to describe some of his night paintings, though he was of course not the first to paint night scenes. Nocturnes are night scenes, but they’ve also been described as gloomy, moody, atmospheric. In 2004, the Art Gallery of Ontario held a beautiful exhibition of the works of Turner, Whistler and Monet: Impressionist Visions. The exhibition was also shown at the Tate Britain in London and at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. What really struck me in this exhibition was how these three wonderful artists created stunning nocturnes.
Over the years, I’ve painted a number of pieces that were inspired by the night. Here are a few recent ones.