Grâce au byte, le monde numérique peut représenter 256 valeurs de couleurs sous la forme de codes binaires. Lorsque ces codes sont transposés sur d’autres outils, de petites nuances apparaissent en fonction du support. Greet Billet transfère avec une précision mathématique toutes les couleurs d’écran dans des livres en employant la sérigraphie analogique. Ensuite, ces couleurs sont transformées en faisceaux lumineux projetés numériquement. Enfin, ces faisceaux, au cours de la dernière phase, font ressortir les reproductions analogiques. Des tonalités chromatiques immatérielles, dont l’existence sera éphémère, apparaissent alors. Cette recherche menée avec le plus grand soin débouche finalement sur un monde d’impressions insaisissables.

Notre perception des objets et des événements dépend fortement de la forme et de l’angle de vue. La recherche présentée dans le paragraphe précédent montre que c’est également le cas pour des environnements hautement contrôlés. Elle ne répond pas aux critères classiques d’utilité, étant donné que son but est artistique. Le transfert d’une matière d’un support vers un autre – ou d’un observateur vers plusieurs autres – donne lieu à des perceptions et à des interprétations à chaque fois différentes. La vision globale de notre monde implique l’acceptation de systèmes uniformes. Cependant, l’œuvre de Greet Billet révèle une indocilité singulière dans chacune de ses observations.

Greet Billet est artiste en arts visuels et enseigne à la LUCA School of Arts, campus de Bruxelles.


In her artistic practice Greet Billet reflects on human perception and the frequently illusory way in which it operates. The artist illustrates astutely how a seemingly objective criterion such as colour appears less fixed than we might generally assume. The concept of the intangible and immaterial consequently forms a crucial element in her work.

Billet aims to reduce the image to its most elementary structure, which she has found in the binary code of the digital image. She transfers this code – unreadable to the human eye – to another medium. This results in her translating the digital transition from white to black in an analog fashion. Billet has represented this process – a process that she has also executed for the colours red, blue and green – in the form of beautifully produced books. Opening the book at a random page, one notices how these continually shifting gradations of colour defy all attempts at classification. It is no longer a question of black or white but rather of hundreds of shades of grey.

Through the medium of these books, it is as if the 256 colour tones that correspond to the number of computer bits are turned into something tangible. Billet not only reflects these chromatic evolutions in book form, but also in a sculptural installation in which the colours are stacked randomly one on top of the other like mikado pick-up sticks. It is an attempt to make the intangible tangible and to translate the rationality of the computer into a more playful, sculptural form.

In addition to transferring the digital to the analog, Billet also investigates the process in reverse. The artist has scanned analog images and translated them into digital format. A mural above which these alternating colour areas are projected conveys a constant series of new colour combinations in which digital technology reinforces the analog carrier. The point of contact between the mural and the evolving nuances of colour creates new gradations that resist immediate definition.

Many of Billet’s works are in situ. They exist for as long as the exhibition lasts. For the artist, this is also a way of distancing herself from a field in which the focus is on a marketable art object. It fits neatly with her pursuit of intangibility. At the exhibition Colorific in the École des Arts in Braine-l’Alleud (Belgium), for example, she painted twelve columns in green to a height of 1.85 metres. On to this she projected a rotating red laser beam that cast its rays on the colour border and section. In this way, she was able to contrast the material nature of the paint with the immaterial nature of the light source. Just as in her colour research, she uses this approach to contrast different types of representation.

For an exhibition at Galerie EL in Welle (Belgium), Billet screened off a window using a red filter. This produced a red glow. A rotating laser beam scanned the room, providing an additional source of light. The rays of red light illuminated a plinth that stood in the room on which the red light produced a green shadow, green and red being complementary colours.

Her exhibition at the Sint-Lukas Galerie in Brussels 1/256 – 256/256 was yet another investigation of colour. Three spotlights were set up in the gallery with red, green and blue colour filters. These cast light on an architectural construction made of polystyrene foam with a split in the middle, creating an interplay of shadows in a variety of colours. However, the light also shone through the gap, causing the three colours to meld and be projected on the wall behind. In a room next to this, Billet displayed the three books illustrating the transition of the same colours (red, green and blue) to black. But the books were intentionally left closed and displayed behind glass. This meant the public had to visualise them using the light sources without being able to look inside their more tangible counterpart – the book. This temporary installation practically made it possible for visitors to experience the concept of colour and light ‘live’. In this way Greet Billet reduces the art of painting to its essentials, adopting an almost scientific approach in her examination of objective parameters such as colour and light. She does this by contrasting different media and forms of representation and, in so doing, puts our sensory perception to the test.

Sam Steverlynck, November 2012

[Translation from the Dutch: Guy Shipton]

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