A Blacker Black and Whiter White

Due a weird conflux of having two books out with editors and catching up on my day job as a teacher over the school holidays, this weekend I found myself bored and with time on my hands.

I wound up painting an artwork. This is my first time doing such a thing for myself. The artwork is straightforward a block of black 3.0 surrounded by white 2.0. That’s it. But, like most artwork, it is the story behind/about the artwork which is what brings it to life.


A story I wrote for my forthcoming sequel to Colours of Death involved me researching colour, in particular Black 3.0 and White 2.0, both paints created by Stuart Semple for CultureHustle.

I was fascinated by the story behind the creation of the paints. A few years ago a blacker black was created. Known as Vantablack, it was the blackest known substance (absorbing 99.96% of light). However, Anish Kapoor bought the rights to it, thereby preventing the art world from using this incredible product. Out of spite, Stuart Semple created Black 2.0 and then Black 3.0. Black 3.0 absorbs 99% of light (regular black paint is about ~90%). It’s the blackest freely available paint on the market. What I particularly loved was that when I went to buy some I had to sign that I was not Anish Kapoor, nor associated with him in any way.*

This led me to ponder the broad intellectual debate as to whether or not a colour should be ownable. Semple refers to people/organisations which have tried to control certain colours as colour criminals*2

It’s an interesting concept. I mean if you invent a process to create a pigment then do you have the right to control that? In 2009, a new blue pigment was accidentally created as the byproduct of research into multiferroics. YInMn Blue (for yttrium, indium, manganese) is the name given to the pigment, which has at least been made available under licence. But what if someone wanted to own a specific colour? Would it be ethical for a colour to be controlled by one person or group? Given much of the fine arts are about use of colour what impact would this have on artists?

I’m not going to attempt a full argument along these lines, but I think the questions are worth thinking about. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s ethical to control the use of colour.

Among the main protagonists, the debate is at times a heated one, but it’s not without a sense of humour. For example, Stuart Semple makes his glow-in-the-dark pigment (called LIT) available for free to Anish Kapoor, so that he can see the light.*3

*Here is the text:

Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this material will not make it’s way into the hands of Anish Kapoor. 

*2 here is the text about them:

Why are the colour criminals banned? 

  • Anish Kapoor & the creators of Vantablack for hoarding the material and for generally being rotters.
  • Dupont for the imprisonment of tech consultant Walter Liew for espionage, after he stole and sold blueprints for their secret titanium white process for over $30million.
  • T-Mobile & its parent company Deutsche Telekom for claiming magenta as their own and suing small businesses for using it.
  • Scientists at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source who are in the process of investigating polar bear fur, insect scales and fathers for industrial and commercial applications.
  • 3M for their ownership of Canary Yellow.
  • Daniel Smith, for buying up the last reserves of quinacridone Gold pigment in the world, so that only they would be able to sell it to artists.

*3 Especially Anish Kapoor. If you are Anish Kapoor, can prove you are associated with Anish Kapoor or to the best of your knowledge information and belief this substance is going to make it’s way into the hands of Anish Kapoor, your order will be free! We want you to know how lovely it feels to #shareTheLight

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