The Warsaw Voice » Culture » Monthly - September 30, 2015
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Time Caught on Canvas
Work by internationally famous Polish artist Roman Opałka, best known for paintings filled with numbers, is on show every weekend at the Spectra Art Space gallery in Warsaw.

Aptly dubbed “an artist of numbers” by The New York Times, Opałka (1931-2011) developed a rigorous, individualistic approach to painting with the intention of rationalizing the chaotic process that is the passing of time. Subjecting his creative process to strict rules, Opałka believed that his repetitious and methodical manner of working enabled him to perceive processes that governed human lives.

The exhibition at the Spectra Art Space gallery marks 50 years since Opałka started a project that would bring him international recognition: a monumental series known as Opałka 1965/1— , also known as Number Paintings. He named the first painting in the series Detail. This is a black canvas 193 by 135 centimeters in size, covered with white numbers from 1 to 35,327, painted with a fine brush in tightly packed, straight horizontal lines. The other paintings followed up on the first one and were filled with rows of consecutive numbers, each carrying on from where the previous painting left off. Together, these paintings form a key project in the art of the second half of the 20th century and early 21st century.

This series is exhibited in an octagonal arrangement, which Opałka himself identified as the best way to view his work. The paintings are accompanied by an audio recording in which Opałka can be heard counting in a low voice. The project confronts viewers with the inevitable passing of time while simultaneously it exudes a sense of infinity.

The exhibition in Warsaw is the first of its kind since Opałka’s death. It starts with the first Detail painting with white numbers on a black backdrop, and ends with one of Opałka’s last pictures, painted in white on a white canvas. The items on show come from private collections and the collections of the Museum of Art and the Atlas Sztuki gallery in Łódź.

Until Feb. 7, Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Free admission
Spectra Art Space, 6 Bobrowiecka St., Warsaw