When you think about stunning visual artworks, you might conjure images of colorful landscapes or ornate paintings.

But what about art that is devoid of color altogether?

Black and white artworks open the door for stunning interpretations of the world as we know it through multiple art mediums, with the style most commonly appearing in:

●     Photographs

●     Drawings

●     Prints

In this article, we’re exploring the meaning of black and white art, as well as how artists use the colorless style to create meaning.

You’ll come away with a better understanding of black and white art, how it can be introduced into your home, and where to find the best works!

The Color Black

Cacique by Juan Motrel
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In order to fully understand the meaning of black and white art, let’s start by separating the two colors and investigating them individually.

On a psychological level, black means a few different things for us, all of which stem from an inherent and instinctive human fear of darkness and what lurks in the shadows.

●     Fear of absence of light: Associated with unknowing, lack of control, and being trapped. Death and depression are common partners of lightlessness.

●     Space: Black also represents inner and outer space and the mysteries that can’t be defined both with our internal bodies and external universe. The color often accentuates mysterious and indefinable qualities

●     Boldness: Although black is fear-ridden, it’s also one of the boldest colors, which is why it pairs so well with white.

Black also has great influence in societal interactions.

When it comes to fashion, black is oftentimes worn as a symbol of authority. This is true with the timeless “little black dress” and traditional tuxedo, as well judges wielding their long black robes.

Black is also a common color choice for “goth” or “gothic” fashion statements, which projects an air of darkness for those who make this fashion statement.

In art, the psychological and societal associations with black show up in the materials themselves. Black pigments in paints, for example, are made up of amorphous carbon — a natural substance produced from charred animal bones or burnt vegetative matter.

Although black doesn’t even appear on the artist’s color wheel and in some cases isn’t even considered a color at all, it’s one of the most powerful and provoking tools that artists can use to create meaning in their work.

But the prowess is nothing without its faithful counterpart: white.

The Color White

Now that we’ve unpacked black as a starting point to understanding the meaning of black and white art, it’s time to delve in to the other end of the spectrum.

In short, white is the total antithesis of black.

You probably already knew that, because black and white appear to our eyes naturally as opposites. But the two colors’ meanings are opposites as well.

In most cultures, white is seen as the color of:

●     Innocence and virginity

●     Light and understanding

●     Loyalty and peace

In the Western world, white is a particularly important motif in clothing for wedding ceremonies, births, and baptisms.

In Asian and African cultures, white is also a traditional color of mourning. As the dead plunge into blackness, the living adorn themselves in white to celebrate a life once lived.

Artists use the color white for many reasons, most notably as a starting-point. Think about a canvas or a page in its most raw form — it’s usually white. For artists, white presents infinite opportunity!

Black & White Paired Together

Laundry Day by Ilvy Photography
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We’ve looked into the meaning of black and white as individual colors.

But how do their means change and work off one another when paired together?

The meaning of black and white art is varied and sometimes complex — but there are common themes that artists tend to explore when combining these two prominent colors.

Here are some frequent stories that black and white artworks tell:

●     Considerations and questions about identity; the two forces of light and darkness that reside with all of us.

●     Investigations of presence and absence; darkness as a void, light as knowing.

●     Contemplations of opposites and continuum; although the colors are stark opposites, they also work as accelerators for one another.

Black and white artworks also tend to introduce a grayscale, where pure white and pure black is meshed together to create a liminal space where sense-making falls on viewer interpretation.

Take a minute to look at black and white pieces and ask yourself:

What do you feel? Why do you think you feel that way? What message are the artworks trying to convey?

Because when it comes to understanding the symbolic meaning of black and white art, it’s all about the story that the work is telling you. There are no right answers, only infinite understanding that speak to all of us in different ways!

The Meaning of Black and White Art in Your Home

Lilium by The Artist Times
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Displaying black and white art in your home is a great way to prompt deep thought and consideration for both you and your guests.

These artworks also play well in almost any space, especially on white walls to give off a more contemporary feel.

Are you thinking about introducing black and white into your living space?

Gallerima is here to help. From prints to photographs to drawings, we’re dedicated to giving you a stunning collection of artworks to choose from.

Explore our black and white gallery by clicking here. We’re confident that you’ll be blown away!

We hope that this article has been helpful for you in discovering the symbolic meaning of black and white art.

Shop around and have some fun! We’re honoured to have you with us here at Gallerima.