Pierre Soulages on Outrenoir
Pierre Soulages’s signature black monochrome paintings are based on the reflection of light off the surface, which the artist refers to as Outrenoir or “beyond black.”
The below text is a translation of the audio recording of the French artist explaining Outrenoir from an interview in October 2009. © Siegfried Forster.
Outernoir is a word I invented because it was called… The last expression I had was “black light” which is an optical definition, it’s true, it’s right, it’s a light reflected by black surfaces but the important thing is what we feel, what touches us, it’s the mental state different from the simple black, therefore I have chosen “outrenoir” just like “outre-Manche” and “outre-Rhin”.
Outre-Manche and outre-Rhin indicate another country and “outrenoir” indicates another country than mere black as well because in the end, the black is not black anymore. The color black is only present to reflect, transform, transmute the light it collects. What is the color black? It’s this only color which is the absence of all light. White is the gathering of all lights but black is total absence.
It’s amusing to note that 340 centuries ago, the age of the Chauvet cave, men were painting and haven’t stopped to do so for many centuries. For Lascaux, it’s 160 – 180. They kept on painting with black in the darkest places ever: caves. It is quite shocking to think that they were descending in total darkness to use black paint.
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