Exhibitions

Roman Opalka 1965/1-∞

08.09.2011 - 22.10.2011
Roman Opalka 1965/1-∞
"My death is the logical and emotional proof of the completion of my work."

This exhibition is an homage to Roman Opalka, who, unfortunately, died recently. The series of self-portraits, the “Détails”, the  sound installation and the video, they all bear witness to his extraordinary work, the methodical transcription of the passing of time, his life achievement to which he remained faithful.

In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Roman Opalka (August 27th 1931- August 6th 2011) began painting a process of counting - from one to infinity. Starting in the top left-hand corner of the canvas and finishing in the bottom right-hand corner, the tiny numbers were painted in horizontal rows. Each new canvas, which the artist called a 'détail', took up counting where the last left off. Each 'détail' is the same size (196 x 135 cm), the dimension of his studio door in Warsaw. All détails have the same title, "1965 / 1 – ∞"; the concept had no end, and the artist pledged his life to its execution: "All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life." In 1968 Opalka introduced a tape recorder, speaking each number into the microphone as he painted it, and also began taking passport-style photographs of himself standing before the canvas after each day's work, a ritual bookkeeping of time passing. The process was endless, but measured against its goal – infinity – it is as naught: 'the problem is that we are, and are about not to be'. Jacques Roubaud  said: "Roman Opalka has done what a man couldn't imagine doing to approach the idea of infinite, the infinite in the finite time, through non-discursive, non-mathematical, irreducibly personal but at the same time given to all of us."

Over the years there have been some changes to the ritual. In Opalka's first details he painted white numbers onto a black background. In 1968 he changed to a grey background 'because it's not a symbolic colour, nor an emotional one', and in 1972 he decided he would gradually lighten this grey background by adding 1 per cent more white to the ground with each passing detail. "My objective is to get up to the white on white and still be alive", which he did. He continued painting till the end of his life.  On the 6th of August 2011, a few days before his 80th birthday, Roman Opalka died in Chieti, Italy. This marks the completion of his work: "the finite defined by the nonfinite". He had reached the number 5607249.
Roman Opalka 1965/1-∞
Roman Opalka 1965/1-∞
Roman Opalka 1965/1-∞