Time and painting

Time and painting

16th June – 19th August 2017


Time and painting is bringing together two supposedly opposite concepts in a likewise supposedly opposing practice of two artists: On Kawara and Roman Opalka. Although the time and process of painting becomes a quality physically embodied into their works, it is essential, for the former the process is of significance is not the finite or infinite, but the actual moment (of the present), which then can be explained through neither of the concepts. The fleeing moment is neither complete nor incomplete, it simply is.

The installation in our project space is thus pointing to the existential quality in painting of present artists. For the painter, to be alive, means simply to paint. This very action becomes a means of recording his existence and meaning for it at the same time.


On Kawara was born in 1933 in Japan and died in 2014 in New York.  He was a mix media artist affiliated with conceptualism and mail art.

With the beginning of 1966 he begin the series of paintings „Today”, which he continued for the following 5 decades.  He died in the middle of preparations of a big retrospective exhibition at Guggenheim Museum in New York. The cycle of minimalistic “Today” paintings, in which the artist painted the current date on monochromatic background is an expression of intellectual and artistic attitude of the artist.

He records, according to a strictly specified rules the passing time, materialising one of the rules of Zen: „Who lives day after day, lives more precisely”  Each painting had to be finished before the midnight and the painted time had to be in the local language, with the use of Roman numbers and latin alphabet.

At the same time he worked on a mail art project between 10th May 1968 and 17th September 1979. Each day the artist posted a postcard on which apart from the address of the receiver and sender contained information about the time he woke up, where he went and whom he met. This minimalistic diary is referred to as the trilogy „I Got Up”, „I Met”, „I went” and was later published in 12 volumes.


Roman Opałka was born in 1931 in France and died  in 2011 in Italy. He graduated from the Fine Art Academy in Warsaw in 1956.

He is most renowned for the cycle: Opałka 1965/1 to infinity, referred to by  the artist as programme. The artist started the project with painting ‘1’ with white paint on the black painted canvas measuring 196×135 cm. From then on the artist wrote lines of numbers, gradually lightening the background of his painting. At the same time he spoke out each of the numbers recording his voice on a tape. With each finished painting he took a self-portrait.

The flow of time became recorded in both the visual and the audio. “For a long time i had wanted to begin creating a work being rigorous in the highest degree, but it was only in 1965 when I manged to structuralise my thoughts and create a plan meeting this desire of precision” – spoke the artist about his work. It is just during the exhibition that all these elements create the right environment, which according to the artist is a recreation of identification of art and life.

The rule of harmony and permanent regularity became concrete in the idea of the everyday, progressive counting. In other conditions, when it was impossible to paint his “Detail” Opalka created drawings of “cards from travels”.

He became faithful to his idea until the end of his life, carrying a very contemporary message about passing away and transience of life.

The first „Detail” is in the collection of the Museum of Art in Lodz, the following in the most esteemed museums worldwide and private collections.


Artists On Kawara, Roman Opalka