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Emptiness, silence, goodness, neatness, totality. Sweet colour, honorable, sublime, filled with light, almost divine…White… Is maybe the beginning, perfection, honesty, good, clean, new, accurate, neutral. Wholeness, absolute clarity, fragile and in momentary equilibrium. Absolute but easy to corrupt. Beyond matter and not bound to the imperfections of the mundane. But it can vanish, lose its immaculate quality if another element comes in contact with it. The most pure which contains at the same time all the rainbow colors. Contradictory white, unique…
Playing with white and honoring its capacity to transmit. “Painting with White” is the exhibit that can be seen now in Room 7 at the Tate Modern composed of monochromatic white paintings which belong to the permanent collection of the museum. A conversation between the works of Li Yuan-chia, Piero Manzoni, Jack Whitten, Robert Ryman, Michael Buthe, Bram Bogart, Mary Martin and Jan Schoonhoven who explores the philosophical associations, poetic and spiritual and where color fills with interpretation and significance. It can result extreme, all white, without anything recognizable, but the language of the reliefs opens a line of investigation surprisingly rich and versatile in which a variety of techniques, materials, textures, surfaces, structures and forms reflect the capacity of response of white to light and darkness.
White, key in paint
White is key in paintings. Through it artists express purity, innocence, strength. Without it I cannot imagine The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist in mourning of Rogier van der Weyden; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer; Water Lilies by Monet; Guernica by Picasso; The Taj Mahal, Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier; painting of bathers by Joaquín Sorolla; The kiss by Rodin; Trafalgar Square by Piet Mondrian; Spiral by Mary Martin; White Painting by Robert Rauschenberg.
My favorite, a white painting floating weightless in a white field, White on White (1917) by Kazimir Malevich. It was one of the most radical paintings of its time: a geometric abstraction without any reference to external reality. Without recognizable forms in nature, Malevich searched “the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts”. His works are not impersonal, nor cold, the texture of his painting, the different tones of white and the lines that breath when tracing them in a precise manner generate a sensation of buoyancy and transcendence. White, thought Malevich, was the infinite color and signified a kingdom of superior feeling, an utopian world of pure form that was only reachable through non figurative art.
Photography: Óscar Rivilla
Translation: Covadonga López-Fanjul
Hair&Makeup: Alba Glance and María Ángeles Calvo for Guerlain
Fashion: Maison Mesa