Piero Manzoni, ‘Achrome’ 1958
Piero Manzoni, Achrome 1958 . Tate . © DACS, 2020

Room 7 in In the Studio

Painting with White

Holes

Shozo Shimamoto, Holes  1954

Holes was made from layers of pasted newspapers. The surface was painted white with hints of pale blue, then pierced to reveal the different layers underneath. Shimamoto began the series around 1949 or 1950, during the post-war American occupation of Japan. The contrast between delicacy and violence may reflect the fracturing of traditional Japanese culture in the wake of the Second World War. This balance between destructive and creative action was a key element in the work of the Gutai Art Association (1954–72), of which Shimamoto was a founder.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Shozo Shimamoto

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Achrome

Piero Manzoni, Achrome  1958

Like a number of his contemporaries, Manzoni wanted to banish narrative content from painting. For Manzoni, this meant removing even colour from his works. In 1957, he began to produce the achromes, which he described as ‘a single uninterrupted and continuous surface from which anything superfluous and all interpretative possibilities are excluded.’ He began by soaking his canvases in kaolin, a soft china clay used in making porcelain. The kaolin eliminated colour to the point of his desired ‘nothingness’. The weight of the material caused it to sag, creating folds across the surface of the canvas.

Gallery label, October 2016

© DACS, 2020

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Ledger

Robert Ryman, Ledger  1982

This is one of about nine paintings from the same period and is painted in a pigmented shellac laid over glass re-inforced plastic. The strips of aluminium which are part of the work act as brackets to attach it to the wall. Ryman pays great attention to the marks of the paintbrush and uses white because he regards it as less emotionally charged than other colours. His works are about surface, texture, grain and luminosity rather than spatial composition.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Robert Ryman

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Spiral Movement

Mary Martin, Spiral Movement  1951

‘Abstract painting gave me a desire to use three-dimensional materials and this first essay was based on the same concept I had used in painting’, Martin wrote. ‘I took a simple element (in this case a parallelepiped – a solid figure whose faces are six parallelograms) and subjected it to a system of changes, not knowing what would happen to it…. I think all my work has been based on this kind of curiosity.’ The composition was determined by a complex layering of geometrical relationships, in this case based on the Golden Section.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Estate of Mary Martin / DACS 2020

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White plane white

Bram Bogart, White plane white  1974

Bogart trained as a house painter before finding success as an artist. His work foregrounds paint as a physical substance, and he became particularly interested in the borders of his paintings. A curator observed Bogart’s method: ‘Working on the floor, he spreads his unique, cement-like, paint substance…over a surface of jute attached to canvas and wood. For this he employs huge brushes and trowels which can be up to six feet wide. A giant of a man, Bogart likes the width of his largest paintings to be within his own wingspan.’

Gallery label, October 2016

© Estate of Bram Bogart

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White Painting

Michael Buthe, White Painting  1969

© Michael Buthe: VG Bold-Kunst, Bonn

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Epsilon Group II

Jack Whitten, Epsilon Group II  1977

Whitten wanted to explore abstraction without the emotional intensity associated with abstract expressionism. For him, this meant removing colour from his work: ‘Red, yellow, blue etc. with their heavy historical and psychological references had become unwanted baggage. I trusted only black and white.’ Along with this rejection of colour came an avoidance of painterly gesture, and to replace it, he created new techniques and tools. The horizontal lines in this work were made with a specially-made scaledup Afro comb, pulled once across the canvas.

Gallery label, October 2016

© reserved

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R69-26

Jan Schoonhoven, R69-26  1969

Having experimented with several different artistic styles, in 1960 Schoonhoven began to make white reliefs with geometrical structures. He worked in the Dutch civil service, making art at the evening and weekend.

Gallery label, October 2016

© DACS, 2020

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Art in this room

Holes
Shozo Shimamoto Holes 1954
Achrome
Piero Manzoni Achrome 1958
Ledger
Robert Ryman Ledger 1982
Spiral Movement
Mary Martin Spiral Movement 1951
White plane white
Bram Bogart White plane white 1974
White Painting
Michael Buthe White Painting 1969
Epsilon Group II
Jack Whitten Epsilon Group II 1977
R69-26
Jan Schoonhoven R69-26 1969