Exhibition Studio Workshop: Work from the Collections #2

Robert Ryman: Painting Without Paint

Curated by The Exhibition Studio Workshop

Entrance Space and Ramp, CHELSEA space 28 January – 20 March 2015

MA Curating and Collections’ Exhibition Studio Workshop presents a single work as the second iteration of the Work from the Collections series. Painting Without Paint is a single framed print by the American artist Robert Ryman, a white artwork in the otherwise empty white space of the Entrance and Ramp. Conceived as a curatorial counterbalance to the exhibition In Peril on the Sea in the main gallery space at CHELSEA space, Ryman’s work offers a simple phenomenal presence and a certain kind of encounter with a physical art object.

The notion of a curatorial and spatial counter-position takes its cue from Norbert Weiner, who developed the modern theory of cybernetics, which is derived from the Greek term for the steersman of a boat – kybernitis – who adjusts the rudder in order to steer his craft back on course; an adjustment described by Weiner as ‘negative feedback’. The absence implied by Robert Ryman’s Painting Without Paint produces this adjustment. This minimal white print suggests abstract simplicity though an encounter with the work is somewhat paradoxical – the enigmatic words of the title surround and impinge on the monochrome surface, and the surface itself is distanced behind the glass of the frame.

Whiteness also evokes absence, the unknown, the sublime and for some a tyranny or terror. These themes have been explored in literature, philosophy, politics, and art, the albino whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick being a particularly complex and memorable encounter with white. Amongst numerous strands, Moby Dick presents a kind of impossible quest to set paradigms for quantifying knowledge and experience – but whilst ‘at sea’, and by constraining the whale which is the largest sea creature – and a battle of wits between man and nature. The weather phenomenon known as ‘whiteout’ denotes the condition of minimal or no visibility. What happens to sensory perception when experiencing this? Reflecting on these possibilities to draw out a psychological counter foil to In Peril on the Sea: Sailing Ships, Stormy Seas will potentially trigger conversations on both sides and enable a rich critical dialogue to evolve.

Exhibition Studio Workshop project team: Da eun Back, Yuan Chao, Yang Chen, Sara Elmasri, Huiting Li, Jiayi Lu, Giulia Ponzano, Sophie Pradere, Oxana Smirnova, Haijao Song, Fabian Strobel, Roberta Vacca, Yang Yang, Wo Zhang

Work From The Collections is an ongoing series of displays organized by CHELSEA space in collaboration with the Exhibition Studio Workshop – the practice based unit of MA Curating and Collections. A programme of talks is planned during the exhibition, details of any Events will be announced on www.chelseaspace.org