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It's all clear in black and white – the power of monochrome

There's something timeless about the use of a monochrome palette to tell very simple and powerful stories without the added complexity of colour and the nuance that can bring.


Early sketches by Da Vinci explain complex ideas with a simple black ink line. Early black and white photography has a purity that presents the world with a very powerful edited view. The early abstract expressionism of Robert Motherwell makes sense of a movement that could easily have been dismissed as colourist.

The design of the Bauhaus, the interiors of Mackintosh or Hoffman, the architecture of Pawson or Chipperfield are super restrained in their palette to calm and ground the visitor in immersive space: monochrome and minimalism are inextricably linked.


For me, music shares this quality; the music of early Miles Davis or Keith Jarrett has a minimal, modal expression that provides the perfect soundtrack for life. It is the bass line that pulses under everything, the background to all experience. Miles’ most popular album Kind of Blue may have tracks titled Blue and Green, but it sounds black and white to me. Clear, concise, pared back and so very cool!


This idea of a pared back reduction of ideas to their most fundamental is a driver right now as we try to imagine what is important, what is fundamental in our lives, both emotionally and aesthetically. What do we chose to surround ourselves with? How do we frame our everyday experiences and what do art and design bring to our life balance? Today, more than ever, our lives might benefit from some clarity – some monochrome minimalism?

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