Not so Black and White
Source material from Visual Diary no. 46, 1975-78, Howard Arkley Archive, MS 14217
Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library VictoriaContributors
© The Estate of Howard Arkley. Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art
Between 1974-77, Arkley devoted himself to an ongoing series of carefully considered, formal and conceptual investigations into the possibilities of abstract mark making. Against meticulously prepared large white grounds, the artist sparingly introduced a range of shapes and forms.
Utilising both the precise graphic line and the fuzzy tonal effects of the airbrush, measured and calculated geometry and looser, improvised gestures are held together in dialectical tension. Amongst the archival material from this period are a number of clippings from the journal Scientific American including a blurred black and white photograph of two pedestrians walking in opposite directions. With its two superimposed upright lines, the image closely resembles the work Actuality (Is the Void Between Events) (1976) which, consisting of two sharp vertical lines overlaid with a loose zig-zagging airbrushed line on either side of an expansive, open field of white, is one of the sparest, most minimal compositions of the entire series. With an economy of means, the painting combines the opposite states of black and white, stillness and movement, restraint and release, in an ambiguous and unresolved state of in-betweenness.