found monochromes

davId batchelor

Installation at CT20 curated in association with Tannery Arts Billboard Project

22 October – 14 November 2021

Thu – Sun: 11 – 5pm

Exhibition Preview:

Friday 29 Oct 2021, 6-9pm (Part of Folkestone Last Fridays)

Since 1997, David Batchelor has been photographing blank, white, rectangular panels that he finds in the streets of the cities he visits, from London to Sāo Paulo. While he started looking at how abstraction is embedded in the urban fabric, the series has grown into a far more personal project, a psychological map of each city he visits. 

The monochromes of the street are occasional, often inadvertent and always temporary. For Batchelor they are moments of blankness in an otherwise saturated visual landscape; rectangular planes of nothingness that can also appear as voids at the centre of the field of vision. As such they are like errors: a space where there shouldn’t be a space, an absence where there should be a presence.

There are currently over 600 images in the series. 

The two-screen installation at CT20 project space follows a billboard artwork by Batchelor , ‘Monochrome 272’curated by Nina Shen-Poblete and commissioned by Tannery Projects. 


[Images above]: Screen captures from ‘Found Monochromes’ by David Batchelor / Last image: Nina Shen-Poblete

David Batchelor’s work is principally concerned with colour as it is experienced in the modern city, and takes the form of three-dimensional work, drawings, photographs and video. Apart from being a prolific artist, David is also a provocative and compelling writer whose published books explore the cultural discriminations of colour experienced in the West. His published works include ‘Chromophobia’, ‘The Luminous and the Grey’, and in ‘Colour’ he has edited an anthology of writings on colour from 1850 to the present. This installation of his work was inspired by his book of photographs, Found Monochromes: Vol 1, no.1-250 (2010). 

Tannery Arts Billboard Project

The screening of ‘Found Monochromes’ at CT20 Project space is an extension to a series of 4 site-specific and temporary Billboard commissions for Tannery Projects, curated by co-director, Nina Shen-Poblete. Between May and September 2021, Nina has invited artists associated with Tannery Arts to create a rolling series of public artworks for a site in Elephant and Castle (London), a site that has witnessed mass cultural and social displacement in the past decade through gentrification, and itself is to be re-developed eminently. ‘Found Monochrome 272’ would be the last piece of public artwork commissioned by Tannery Projects for this site. 

Before becoming public works of art, these individual images were made as personal, biographical records. This intervention thus becomes an invitation to share an intimate dialogue. Be it a painting, a drawing, a collage or a photograph, the works are created with a deep compassion for the invisible, the intangible, the transient, the under-rated, the overlooked and the nameless – the raw materials of contemporary experience turned into a set of portraits for the modern life, and a monument to untold stories.

​​The feelings of incompleteness, abandonment and not having a ‘home’ as lived by a migrant when arriving to a new place is described by John Berger as ‘the extreme form of a more general and widespread experience.’[1] I understood it to be an acute sense of alienation and unspeakable loneliness. The horrors of social distancing and months of isolation, demonstrate that the sense of being ‘at home’ has very little to do with the four walls and a roof, and more to do with a set of habits, rituals and memories created and shared between one another. Berger’s words invite us to empathise with the other, rather than to stigmatise and to displace.

The pandemic has amplified social fragmentations that already existed beneath the veneers of progress and prosperity. Can art help to reconnect and restore ‘humanness’, on a site that has borne witness to recent traumas of irretrievable human and cultural losses? ‘The very sense of loss keeps alive an expectation.’[2] Perhaps artistic expressions find ‘home’ and urgency at this very moment in time, albeit in a muted, oblique and poetic way.


NSP [May 2021]

[1&2] Berger, John, ‘And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos’, Granta Books, 1992