Skip to navigation Skip to main content
Borderpainting by Alan Charlton is grey. The grey painting was created layer by layer with fine brush strokes.

Alan Charlton
Borderpainting, 1995

Grey mice, grey hair, grey days?

Listen to this article

The colour grey does not have a colourful reputation.

What is it that makes a painter decide to devote his entire work to the non-colour par excellence? Do we not expect artists’ creations to inspire or seduce us?

But there’s none of that in Alan Charlton’s monochromes. “Grey paintings”, he calls them. Moreover, the pace of Charlton’s work can also be called monotonous: from nine to five, with no exception. Forget the Bohemian artist; it seems as if we are dealing with a passionate ode to dull triviality, however contradictory that may sound.

A reason to shrug our shoulders and pass by quickly? Not quite. By reducing all the traits with which a traditional painting would charm us to a minimum, or even to their essence, Charlton draws our attention to the subtleties that we would not normally take into account.

How does the surface behave under a changing light? What kind of effect does the painting have on the space? Is grey always equally grey? These fundamental questions simply cannot tolerate any interference such as loud colours or complex shapes. We get enough of that already in streetscapes and on-line.

The grey area that the artist created layer by layer, using fine brush strokes, will in fact arrest our fleeting glance. A noble exercise that requires time and effort. What is our concentration like in 2019 anyway?