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All Blues but Prussian Blue

100 acrylic on canvas mounted on cardboard, 212 x 657 cm, 2024

‘All Blues but Prussian Blue' is a series of 100 pieces of acrylic painted canvases stretched on cardboard. It consists of a multitude of colours that is based on 6 primary shades of blue: Indigo, Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue, Cerulean Blue, Turquoise, and Cobalt Blue. Each of the 100 hand-painted pieces depicts one single shade, and together they present an exhaustion of each of the primary blue shades, from deep dark to transparent light. As the title of the work promises, the work supposedly presents all possible variants of blue, excluding Prussian Blue.

While the work presents itself as a cold, technical study of the colour blue and its potentials and variations, it is betraying its own objectivity by excluding one certain colour not on the basis of unbiased criteria of the investigation, but rather on the basis of personal, emotional reaction to the specific history of the missing colour.

Why excluding Prussian Blue? Prussian Blue (Berliner Blau in the original German) is the first modern synthetic pigment, produced by oxidation of ferrous ferrocyanide salts. It was invented accidentally, when in 1704, in a small laboratory in Berlin shared by famed alchemist Johann Konrad Dippel and paint-maker and Marchant Johann Jacob Diesbach, the latter – mixing different ingredients – mistakingly used a jar of salts that belonged to the alchemist, not knowing it was contaminated with animal blood. The result was a dark, rich shiny shade of blue that had never been seen before.

Prussian Blue has played a role in several surprising moments in the history of Europe and particularly of Germany in the past three centuries. Quickly becoming widely popular among artists in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and beyond, Prussian Blue was the predominant uniform colour of the infantry and artillery regiments of the Prussian army. it was also used by women of the European aristocracy to paint blue marks on their wrists and above their breasts as a way to make their skin seem whiter and more transparent, supposedly revealing their blue veins.

Residues of Prussian Blue were found on the walls of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Majdanek, the result of the use of Zyklon B – which contains the different components that lead to the creation of Prussian Blue – in the continuous mass murdering that was executed between 1941 to 1944.

The amounts of residue of Prussian Blue on the walls of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Majdanek also stood at a centre of the defensive arguments of a series of Holocaust deniers throughout the second half of the twentieth Century, who tried to prove in vain – by citing the presence or absence of the specific shade of Prussian Blue on the walls – that the chambers could not have been used for the systematic murder of humans.


‘All Blues but Prussian Blue’ is a work dedicated in its entirety and its multitude of characters to the one specific figure that is missing from it, the one that is strikingly present in its absence. It questions the ways in which we react to history, what we choose to give attention to, how we define collective responsibilities, and what selective tools we use to articulate a culture of memory. Absurdly suggesting to exclude - or rather censor? - the pigment Prussian Blue because of its history, is a call to consider the symbolic gestures that individuals, groups and institutions practice as a way to deal with the past, their declared goals and their actual achievements and consequences.

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