The original French version Here - The English version has been translated by Jon-Michael McLean
"I like the authority of black, it's solemnity, it's obviousness, it's radicalism. It's powerful ability of contrast gives an intense presence to all the colours, and when it lights up the most obscure, it confers upon them a sombre grandeur."
Pierre Soulages (Le noir, la lumière, la peinture, preface for Annie Mollard-Desfour, Le Dictionnaire des mots et expressions de couleur. Le noir. Paris ; CNRS Éditions, 2005, p.14.)
Anne Bertier published, in 2010 with the publishing house Memo, a picture book entitled Black, which responds to White, published a year earlier. A sumptuous formal work, of extraordinary visual power, that at once summons the artistic as well as the playful sense of the reader and that aids in understanding the strength and the graphic intransigence of black. Since "black" or "white" designates letters, Black is over a white background, while White is over a black background. With rigueur and without concession, Anne Bertier takes the polarity of the positive/negative interplay to its limits.
Things play out differently with Hors-Cadre[s], of which the present edition is in no way a mirror of the second edition, dedicated to white and released in 2008. Here black escapes all binary logic and prefers the instability of ambivalence and a kaleidoscopic breakaway, as well as serenely cultivating the unexpected.
Michel Pastoureau, in Noir, Histoire d’une couleur (Seuil, 2008), popularised this evolution of black in perpetual motion that was at first linked to the idea of fertility and then demonised, before being rendered moral and noble, to find itself afterwards taking the backseat to colours, then becoming the emblem of romanticism and at last that of the golden age of American consumption. And these contradictory evolutions are not only successive, black speaks all at the same time: matrix and terror, fertility and death, melancholy and utopia, destruction and creation.
Whereas white holds up the expectation of the creator's gesture, everything ends up unfolding as if black were gathering and focusing the imagination, keeping it there, in its black pages, like a creature crouching in the shadows and that only makes sudden appearances. And the story of shadows brought out and drawn relates well its ambivalent and sulphurous destiny.
Still today, in the publishing sector, it is difficult to affirm if black appears as pejorative or ameliorative. It is still claimed to be the anti-colour but also a colour in its own right, at times, presence, at other times, absence, all or nothing. In the domain of publications for children, it is still almost systematically associated with fear, and it is everything that childhood is not. However it is certain that it stands out as well in picture books as it does in comics as a powerful resource of innovation, of the avant-garde and of creation.
Black reveals with extraordinary limpidity the importance of the gesture that concentrates mastery and suppleness, precision and improvisation. Here again making culmination its affair, it establishes an eminently dynamic rapport with the medium. If some creators blossom in black as sculptors of light, spreading out, applying, containing black in infinite contrasts , others wring pen and ink in order to make emerge on the paper games of matter and textures. Mediaeval quarrels seem today well in vain: black is as much matter as it is light.
This is only rendered possible in a book, a work whose nature is to be reproduced, by the constant enhancement of quality and of technical innovation whether it be in the medium itself or in its effect. Thus, the discovery of selective varnish has considerably increased the possibility of black in enabling the reconciliation of ater (in Latin, mat black, bad) and niger (shiny black, positive).
And so the terms are released: magic, alchemy, power of black , fecundity, bubbling turbulence, radicalism and finally, politics. Because never before has a theme given us to such a point the impression of being anchored in our era. An era regarding which black seems to act as much as a revelator as it does an indicator. Will the twentieth century be black?