When I was in my early twenties, I went to a Robert Ryman exhibition at MoMA. It was revelatory. Never before had I understood the subtleties of conceptual art. Every work was white, but every work was a completely different non-colour. How could this be? I started to look at the nuances in what we call sameness. Even when you have two pieces of the same white paper together, there is some shadow or a variance that makes them different. When everything is “white”, texture is accentuated. Staples, sewing and any tiny colour are accentuated. White helps you see everything much more clearly. There is nothing exciting and catchy to hide behind.
White, in concept, often portrays space and light. Holes are the literal version of space and light. I thought, “What if I take away some white paper and leave air holes?” I was interested to see what the holes did to the artwork. Would it be seamless or jarring? It actually isn’t very jarring at all and sadly doesn’t seem conceptual. It looks beautiful. Of course, if I took the materials away all together to show only the holes, which are the light and space, it would be more conceptual. Fascinatingly, probably to almost only me alone, it would not be empty. This was very articulately demonstrated by John Cage’s “four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence” which was, of course, not silent.
By using white, I show the viewer that there is always something there.