Hocquincourt, 1931 - 2011

Roman Opałka (Hocquincourt, France, 1931 - Chieti, 2011) was a French-Polish artist. In 1965, while living in Warsaw, he embarked on his lifelong project Opalka 1965/1 - ∞ (1956-2011). Each day he would obsessively paint numbers in increasing order, starting with 1, with white acrylic paint on identically shaped vertical canvases, all entitled Détails. He would end the canvas with a certain number, then start the next canvas with the subsequent number, and continue in that way. As the years passed, the canvases, initially black, became increasingly lighter: the last numbers, present but invisible, were painted white on white. With this ambitious project, Opalka gave tangible form to time and quantified the infinite, which by definition cannot be represented nor understood. From 1972, Opalka began working contemporaneously on a self portraiture project: the artist recorded himself saying the number he had just painted and he took a photograph of himself at the end of each day’s work. Opalka’s dedication to exploring the theme of the infinite came to an end in 2011 when he died.

The most recent exhibitions dedicated to Roman Opalka’s work were at Christie’s Mayfair, London (2015), Dominique Lévy, New York (2015), Michela Rizzo Gallery and Museo Correr, Venice (2011). Three Détails were shown at Punta della Dogana in the exhibition “Prima Materia” (2013-15).