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David Batchelor: The Fear of Colour

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'Oh, hang on, where's the colour?'

It took a while for artist David Batchelor to notice that much of his work lacked colour. It happened in the studio, when, in frustration whilst trying to distinguish the front of a work from the back, he painted the face of it a vibrant pink.

This epiphany lead Batchelor to investigate the presence of 'Chromophobia' through Western cultural thought. He suggests colour has often been cast as a dangerous element -- as the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, and the cosmetic. In this film, he traces the fear through 19th century Academic painting through to minimalism, Pop and conceptual art and popular TV and cinema. He also discusses the beguiling relationship between the 'Luminous and the Grey', and why grey, contrary to popular thought, is a surprisingly interesting colour.


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David Batchelor is an artist and writer based in London. He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1955. He studied Fine Art at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham (1975-1978), and Cultural Theory at Birmingham University (1978-1980).

David's work comprises three-dimensional structures, photographs, paintings and drawings, and mostly relates to a long-term interest in colour and urbanism. He has exhibited widely in the UK, continental Europe, the Americas and, more recently, the Middle East and Asia. Recent exhibitions include 'Chromatology', Ab-Anbar Gallery, Tehran (2017); 'Reef', Handel Street Projects, London (2016); 'Monochrome Archive 1997-2015', Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); 'Flatlands', Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh and Spike Island, Bristol (2013-14); 'Light Show' (2013-16), Hayward Gallery, London, MAC Sydney, Sharjah Art Foundation and MAC Santiago; 'Chromophilia: 1995-2010', Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro (2010); and 'Color Chart', Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008) and Tate Liverpool (2009)

Chromophobia, Batchelor's book on colour and the fear of colour in the West, was published by Reaktion Books, London (2000), and is now available in eight languages. His most recent book, The Luminous and the Grey (2014), is also published by Reaktion. Colour (2008), an anthology of writings on colour from 1850 to the present, edited by Batchelor, is published by Whitechapel, London and MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. His book of photographs, Found Monochromes: vol.1, nos.1-250 (2010), is published by Ridinghouse, London; his suite of drawings, The October Colouring-In Book (2015), is published by Common-Editions, London.

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