Julie Rafalski

Grey Paintings

Reproductions of art in books are, at best, limiting. I remember looking in an art encyclopaedia as a kid and seeing some Impressionist paintings reproduced in shades of grey. This fuzzy grey mass of brushstrokes looked ghost-like. But it also made one imagine the colour that was absent.

Piet Mondrian, New Your City I, 1942

Sometimes in the colour images, the CMYK plates used in printing become slightly out of line, creating a sliver of a bright yellow showing through where there was only supposed to be Rembrandt's dark shadows or a loud magenta peeking through a subdued Morandi still life.

Barnett Newman, Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue II, 1967

I recently found a grey reproduction of Barnett Newman's "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue II". As the title suggests these colours, one has to project them onto the image. One has to image what the darker shade correspond to- red or blue? I could only think of other paintings I have seen of his and try to remember those reds and blues. But memories of colours are equally as inconstant as reproductions.

The reproductions, particularly of paintings, offer a mediated view of the works. They distort through the yellowed paper colour, the fading inks which were imperfect to begin with, the scaled-down size. So that the images in these books become different versions of the pieces themselves, like a jazz improvisation on a theme. They form the haze surrounding an artwork, like clues in a detective novel, some more useful that others, pointing to the artwork that has been stolen by Reproduction.