Marina Vitaglione introduces David Batchelor: Monochrome Archive @ The Whitechapel Gallery
Images courtesy of David Batchelor
“Monochrome is abstract art’s exemplary form, and you only find it in cities. You can’t find it in nature.”
It’s following this discovery that British artist David Batchelor set himself a challenge: taking a picture of every white square or rectangle he came across on his walks through various cities.
The result is no less than 500 images, taken from 1997 to 2012 around the globe, from London to Hong Kong via Berlin or Rome, all collected in this exhibition. The central white square is the only constant in this set of pictures, like a common denominator that the photographer’s eye keeps seeking everywhere he wanders.
The images keep interchanging on a multi-screen installation, while all the miniature prints are displayed on a lit table, with notes on when and where they were taken. The countless photographs appear to be a diary of Batchelor’s travels through the years, always looking for the abstract in the urban space.
At first, the white monochromes seem to give the exhibition cohesion and stability, but one soon realises that they are in fact ephemeral. As Batchelor himself points out, a white square is never going to stay white for long in a city: it will most likely get covered by ads, posters or writings. For this reason, the 500 pictures are unique: an abstract photography show not to be missed.
Whitechapel Gallery, 22 Dec 2014 – 3 May 2015
Marina is a freelance journalist and culture writer based in London and an analogue photography enthusiast. She holds a Journalism degree from City University.