10.08.2020

Accents in black: plea for a (non-)colour

Anyone who wants to make a statement for everything timeless in the bathroom gives impulses in black.

Elegance, exclusivity, solemnity, but also darkness and black magic; at least in the western world, black is the colour of mourning, anarchism, abstinence, masculinity and austerity, of the intellectual: No other colour tone triggers so many associations – and yet it is considered the most neutral of all colours. Black withdraws itself and black stands out. Strictly speaking, black is not a color at all. In physical terms, black is the absence of visible and invisible light and, as a sensory impression, a state.

Painter of light
When the French artist Pierre Soulage painted on canvas with black paint, more precisely with nutshell stain, for his first exhibition in 1947, he aimed for nothing less than a radical break with figurative art. Everything representational gave way to abstraction. Later he coined the term “Outrenoir”, the “otherworldly black”. His canvases were now completely immersed in black, which from then on was applied extremely thickly to form textures. To this day, the now centenarian works in this way. Actually he paints with light, as Soulage himself says. Only reflection makes his work complete.

Black in fashion
While black often appears dark in art, it has become an indispensable part of fashion, at least since Audrey Hepburn’s 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Since then, the black dress has always been trendy and always seems appropriate. The little black dress was invented by the French fashion designer Coco Chanel. In 1926 Vogue published a drawing of her “Little Black Dress”, a scandalously tightly cut black dress, which was to give the woman a new self-image after the First World War. The history of secular black dress goes back a long way.

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In the 14th century, wealthy citizens discovered the elaborately produced colour for themselves, because certain other colours were reserved for the nobility. Via the Duchy of Burgundy, black then reached all the important centres of Europe from the 16th century onwards. At court people wore black, wealthy people dressed in black. Black was also soon found in the robes of scholars, university professors, theologians and lawyers. It was not until the 19th century that it became the general colour of mourning, even in the bourgeoisie.

Black as a unifying element
In product and industrial design, black plays a very simple role: it sums up the variety. Or have you never wondered why hi-fi systems, razors, hair dryers, eBook readers or coffee machines are so often kept black? They have to match each other, regardless of the furnishing style of their users. The designer Dieter Rams demonstrated this. His products for the Braun company were primarily black, white or light grey. And Apple follows the same principle: after brief colourful escapades with the first iMac and the iBooks at the end of the 1990s, MacBooks, which were initially available in white, have been silver or “space grey” for some time now, and black is by far the best-selling colour on the iPhone. That’s because the colour has a decisive advantage: it’s discreet and easy to clean.

Incidentally, researchers are constantly announcing that they have developed the blackest black, as was last seen in autumn 2019. Super black is a coating of carbon nanotubes that absorbs incident light almost completely. It is used in science, for example to calibrate space telescopes.

Chrome adé in the bathroom
In interior design, black accents have been the trend for some time now. In the bathroom they create an alternative to chrome. Axor, Hansgrohe, Dornbracht, Fantini or Duravit: they all now have black bathroom fittings in their ranges. Matching furniture is provided, for example, by Burgbad with the “Mya” furniture series in wood or Agape with the “Rigo” modular system designed by Patricia Urquiola, which is available in black, matt white or light grey. Bathtubs and washbasins with a strong black and white contrast are available from Bette with the “BetteLux Shape” design line. The series’ free-standing bathtub is supported by a filigree frame of powder-coated steel and seems to float in the room. To make the minimalist look of black and white look harmonious, it is important to combine it with natural components – especially wood.

The artist Pierre Soulage once said in an interview: “Black activates other colours, it makes them brighter and clearer. Black is the most active color.” The best proof of this is perhaps the material “Marmoreal” by the London designer Max Lamb: In the terrazzo, small yellow, green, reddish marble pieces emerge fabulously radiant. Anyone who thinks black is barren, gloomy and sterile has simply not yet recognised the power of this colour.

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