Roman Opałka

Roman Opałka
Roman Opałka was one of the most radical and famous conceptual artists to date. In his life long project entitled Opałka 1965/1- he painted consecutive numbers in white colour on canvases of consistently equal dimensions (195 x 135 cm), a project that lasted between 1965 until his death in 2011.

Opałka operated on the principles of progression and the visual and pictorial representation of time. "The foundation of my work, to which I have devoted my life, manifests itself in a process of recording a progression that both documents time, and also defines it," stated the artist. This decade long project is to be understood as one complete work. He began in 1965, with the so-called Detailspainting on canvasand expanded this idea into different media over the years. Integral to this project are his photographic self-portraits. Taken at the end of each work-session we see Opałka with the canvas he is working on in this exact moment in the background. These photographs are entitled Detail as wellappended to the title is the number that he stopped painting at in that exact moment in time. Each image is taken under the same conditions, with the exact same lighting, distance between him and the camera and the same dimensions (24 x 30,5 cm). In every self-portrait he wears a simple white shirt and looks directly, expressionlessly into the camera. From these individual portraits emerges a larger self-portrait of the artist taken over the years while working on Opałka 1965/1-∞. While each photograph defines a precise moment in time, together they function as an overall picture of the artist. From day to day and year to year his face ages, and within forty-five years a series of photographs emerge that make visible the otherwise imperceptible passage of time. While the first canvases were painted on dark background, Opałka has been lightening the background of each painting by 1%, since 1972. Having worked through all the grey tones by 2008, he had been painting white on white since then. He called this colour "blanc mérité" (well earned white). As with the painting, the colour of the photographs subtly lightens up from one work to the other. In the early self-portraits, the artist still had dark hair in contrast with the latter ones in which his white hair nearly merges with the background.