March 29, 2019 - Museum Hof van Busleyden - Back to Black
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March 29, 2019

Museum Hof van Busleyden

Claudy Jongstra Dye works at Studio Claudy Jongstra.

Back to Black
From 16th century colour recipes to our experiences of the colour "Black" today
June 21, 2019–June 21, 2021

Opening: June 20, 7–11pm, By registration*

Museum Hof van Busleyden
Sint-Janstraat 2a (enter through the garden)
2800 Mechelen
Belgium
Hours: Thursday 10am–10pm,
Friday–Tuesday 10am–5pm

T +32 477 77 53 81
hvb@mechelen.be

www.hofvanbusleyden.be
Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Back to Black
From 16th century colour recipes to our experiences of the colour "Black" today
June 21, 2019–June 21, 2021

Opening: June 20, 7–11pm, By registration*

Museum Hof van Busleyden
Sint-Janstraat 2a (enter through the garden)
2800 Mechelen
Belgium
Hours: Thursday 10am–10pm,
Friday–Tuesday 10am–5pm

T +32 477 77 53 81
hvb@mechelen.be

www.hofvanbusleyden.be
Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Back to Black is an interdisciplinary project combining the expertise of a museum, an academic research group and a contemporary artist.  The aim is to enhance a visitor's modern-day perception of colour via the centuries-old recipes for the colour black and art historian's knowledge of black in the Burgundian era.

Colour was very important to the Burgundian rulers mindful of their status. That is why they called on and attracted a wide range of knowledge and expertise in colouring and dyeing techniques. Mechelen's 15th and 16th century craftsmen who produced and worked with black paints and dyes enjoyed a considerable reputation for their mastery of the complex production process. Even then, the colour black was evocative, being associated with distinction and mourning, for instance, as exemplified by the black, formal garb in portraits of dignitaries by Dutch and Flemish Old Masters.  Little of that use of colour survives however. The passage of time has faded both the brilliance of the colours and their significance. What has been preserved can often be observed and interpreted only at some remove. 

For city-dwellers in the 16th century, colour was far more than just a visual phenomenon. Production processes spoke to all the senses. In the recipe books, we find a language of colour that catches our imagination. But what about the smells, sounds or feel of the craft as practised by masters of colour in those times? Can we use modern methods to analyse the Burgundian colours, and then reproduce them using the old methods and replicate the experience of centuries ago? Can contemporary artists still follow the centuries-old recipes and master them as well as their predecessors? And could that be a source of inspiration and new work?

Back to Black wants to get to the bottom of these questions via interdisciplinary research. With the Artechne project (European Research Council) led by Sven Dupré (Universiteit Utrecht & Universiteit van Amsterdam), Studio Claudy Jongstra, the Universiteit van Antwerpen, the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed Nederland and the museum visitors, Museum Hof Van Busleyden is researching the Burgundian Mechelen painting and dyeing practices.  The focus is on the colour black, from historical recipe books to the textile idiom of Claudy Jongstra.  

The project has a sound art history and history of technology underpinning. Reading the 16th century recipe books and archival sources, allows to decipher the secrets of Mechelen's pigment and dye-makers. That knowledge has its visual counterpoint in a selection of Burgundian portraits in the museum exemplifying this specific colour technique. Studio Claudy Jongstra reinterprets the centuries-old recipes, with the drive of using the old corpus to produce new material. 

As in the temporary and permanent exhibitions at Museum Hof Van Busleyden, dialogue between past and present is a central part of the approach.  Can contemporary artists who work with natural pigments and paints easily follow the centuries-old recipes and apply the results with the same mastery as centuries ago? With the exhibition, the museum aims to bring back to life through Claudy Jongstra's contemporary work, the forgotten sensory world of the Burgundian masters of colour and their products.

Back to Black will thus investigate how a symbiosis of contemporary art interpretation, presentation, participation and research can enhance our understanding of the significance and perception of the colour black in the Burgundian era.  

More information: Project coordinator marijke.wienen [​at​] mechelen.be and curator samuel.mareel [​at​] mechelen.be of Museum Hof Van Busleyden

*Please contact Project coordinator marijke.wienen [​at​] mechelen.be 

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