This Studio Sunday let’s take a look inside the workshop of painter and conceptual artist Robert Ryman. Ryman is known for his white-on-white paintings that force the viewer to pay attention to composition, material and lighting rather than colour or subject.
Ryman’s studio almost seems to mimic the look of his paintings in the above image! The artist seems to be working on a fairly large work, while two similarly sized white canvases lean against the far wall. The bright white of the canvases, combined with the dirty off-white colour of the floor reminds me of the way the artist uses contrast between very similar shades in his work.
Ryman’s studio otherwise seems fairly basic.
The artist often works on a smaller scale, using “lowbrow” surfaces like cardboard and newspaper as the substrates for his work, layering on thick paint and media. I imagine his studio must have shelves and shelves of jars and tubes of white acrylic paint, oil paint and gesso.
In the bottom photo, Ryman is getting ready to create some works directly on the wall in a gallery space. The artist is known for creating artworks that exist very close to the wall, sometimes using the wall itself as an involuntary surface when a painting on paper spills over. The works that he’s setting up here seem to be based on paper that’s taped to the wall itself, and might explore the contrast between the white gallery walls and the paintings.
Ryman began experimenting with white paint in the 1950’s, when he would use the medium to paint over existing coloured works. In interviews, the artist has spoken at length about the way white paint allows both the artist and the viewer to better appreciate the formal and conceptual aspects of an artwork.