Neutral (Diluted)

Diluted Ink on Watercolour Paper
210 x 148mm

On 9 March 1978, the French writer Roland Barthes visited the Sennelier art supply shop on Quai Voltaire to buy some inks. Once home, and having opened and looked at them, he accidently knocked over and spilled one of them; the colour was called ‘Neutral’, the subject of the thirteen-week lecture series he was about to start giving at the Collège de France.

By coincidence it was also on 9 March, but in 2007, that I also visited the same shop to buy some bottles of this ink, with which I was to make some drawings. The drawings were to be as ‘empty’ as possible, an aesthetic which draws upon not only my interest in Minimalism, but also Eastern thought, an increasing influence for Barthes on his thinking in the late 1970s. Another, more contemporary, influence for me was the work of another Parisian academic, François Jullien. 

This ongoing series of drawings consider Jullien’s presentation of the Chinese notion of blandness (dan) as markedly different from its perception in the West; whereas we might consider it as a lack of defining qualities, within Chinese aesthetics it is considered the balanced and unnameable union of all possible values; as richness.

The small drop of ink which sits at the centre of the paper then becomes a mark of great potential, that from which all form might come forth. That the ink is diluted makes it emptier and richer still.