Black and White: A Little Colour Theory and the Art of Harijadi

Black and White, we hear that expression all the time. I don’t believe any two ‘colours’ encompass as much meaning as these. Colour has amazing power and is intertwined with our psychology, our words and expressions. Perhaps also in how we identify feelings.

The expression ‘you see things in black and white’ is often used to describe when a person is unable to see the middle ground. One extreme to another in opinion or perspective. In film and photography, its associated with the classics. With elegance. Mostly though, in film, photography and psychology, the expression ‘black and white’ usually refers to the lack of colour.

A little colour theory…

There are the two colour models we’re most familiar with in digital work and print. For example, in the world of print and graphics, you would be familiar with the models ‘CMYK and RGB’.

Colour Models

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key ) is a subtractive colour model associated with the inks used in printing.The central key plate in printing is black and taking away Cyan, Magenta or Yellow make up the other colours, is the gist of it.

Whilst RGB you have an additive colour model. Whereby this model uses the the light spectrum. When you add all the colours you find in light combined, It is here then that you get white.

Colour and Science

From a scientific position, colour is defined as visible light with a specific wavelength. White light contains all the wavelengths of visible light. Whilst black is said to be the absence of all light. It absorbs all visible light wavelengths and does not reflect any back to our eyes. So it is said to be the absence of light, therefore colour.

This is poignant and beautiful rolled into irony all at once. Though black and white is a ‘non colour’, it is still ultimately the culmination of all colours in one way or another whether by addition or subtraction. I find this intertwining, inverted logic wonderful. Its poetic irony gorgeous.

Introducing Harijadi’s Artistry

Tegalalang Art Print by Harijadi

So there are many thoughtful reflections that emanate from this perfect symmetry of black and white. Light and dark, yin and yang, night and day have become generic cliches. Now, if black is shadow and white is light and everything else in the world is colour,.. Going along with our colour model theory, then the sum of the world make Light and Shadow?

It is musings like this that wonder through my mind when I look upon Harijadi’s pieces. Harijadi’s ‘Tegalalang’ and ‘In Kutri’ as well as photographs of Our Quiet Places. Perhaps Harijadi’s works capture the underlying atmosphere so beautifully, because black and white are actually the sum of all colours? Even if they are not themselves a colour.

Image right: Tegalalang, by Harijadi

Black and White
You Are Pule, by Dewi Dian Reich

By extension of this very informal musing on colour theory,.. Light and shadow is the sum of the world’s reality? and we have here a work of art with no colour, but holds all the colours in the world.

Nevertheless, it may be that black and white serves as a perfect metaphor for the very central aspect of our sacred places here in Bali. Perhaps it is simply eloquent in showing ‘this is Nature’s Balance’ . The black and white of light and shadow. The sum of all we can see in colour of the world. For me, that is the poetic beauty in Harijadi’s works.

In Kutri Art Print by Harijadi
‘In Kutri’ Harijadi 2021

Harijadi joined Sawidji earlier in the year. From the first, I am drawn to the contrast of its simplicity and complex detail. And the quiet sombreness of each piece. His works are masterpieces of detail, a study of shadow and light. Employing only black ink with a very fine point to create wonderful, soulful pieces of the many quiet places in Bali.

Due to whatever circumstances may be, Harijadi can only now begin to build a full collection again, one we are really happy to have with us here at Sawidji.

Pelinggih, by Dewi Dian Reich

In the end…

We are now back to the artistic perspective. First of all, from a technical point of view. Even our methods, particularly in painting and drawing, whether classical or contemporary, Black and White remain the fundamental core. It is the strong foundation needed to build a strong house. Art imitates Nature. In our endeavours to make something beautiful, all the colours we employ are ruled by the ruling balance of Shadow and Light.

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