Roman Opalka

Roman Opalka (1931-2011)

“Time as we live it and as we create it embodies our progressive disappearance; we are at the same time alive and in the face of death–that is the mystery of all living beings. The consciousness of this inevitable disappearance broadens our experiences without diminishing our joy. There is always the omnipresent idea of nature, of its ebb and flow of life. This essence of reality can be universally understood; it is not only mine but can be commonly shared in our unus mundus.”

Roman Opalka – “Rencontre par la séparation”, AFAA, Paris, 1987

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“The fundamental basis of my work, to which I have dedicated my life, manifests itself in a process of recording a progression that both documents time and also defines it. It began on a single date in 1965, the one on which I undertook my first “Detail”.

Each “Detail” is a part of a greater idea conceived on that date. My work records the progression to infinity, through the first and the last number painted on the canvas.

I inscribe the progression of numbers beginning with one, proceeding to infinity, on canvases of the same size, 77.17 x 53.15 in (196 x 135 cm), in white by hand with a paintbrush. Since 1972 I have been making each canvas’ background about 1% whiter each time. Thus the moment will arrive when I will paint white on white. Since 2008, I have painted in white on a white background, which I call “blanc mérité” (white well earned).

After each work session in my studio, I take a photograph of my face in front of the “Detail” that I have been working on. Each “Detail” is accompanied by a tape recording of my voice saying the numbers out loud as I write them.” Roman Opalka