"Like a Bedouin who can make out the subtlest shades of sand or an Inuit who can read with precision a comparable narrow spectrum of snow and ice, Ryman has catalogued white's actual variety, thus ironically demonstrating its latent non-neutrality when seen in relation to itself." -- Robert Storr
Darsana, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor
White is the most important color on my palette. I use it as a color, not just to depict "light." Its relationship to other colors is remarkable -- it is always influenced by the quality of any given pigment, and yet white always retains it's own weight and structure.
One of my favorite painters, Robert Ryman, had a love affair with white that has left us with a whole new vision of what white, as a color, can be. In all of its delicate and subtle evocations, white in Ryman's paintings conveys strength and majesty.
From Suzanne P. Hudson's marvelous book, Robert Ryman: Used Paint, she observes:
"Ryman came to insist on the realness of paint (white and otherwise) not as pure color but as a marker of its effects. A painting would be an orange painting or a white painting because of the demonstrable behavior and sensible qualities of the paint that was used to actuate it. Color here is not an abstract essence or language game but the physical effect of the paint in which it is suspended. [pp 60-62]
"Painting white paintings was something Ryman had long disavowed, as when he answered a question about this is 1971:
No, it may seem that way superficially, but there are a lot of nuances and there's color involved. Always the surface is used. The gray of the steel comes through; the brown of the corrugated paper comes through; the linen comes through, the cotton (which is not the same as the paint -- it seems white): all of those things are considered. It's really not monochrome painting at all. The white just happened because it's a paint and it doesn't interfere. I could use green, red, yellow, but why? It's a challenge for me to use paint and make something happen with it, without having to be involved in reds, greens, and everything which would confuse things. But I work with color all the time. I don't think of myself as making white paintings. I make paintings; I'm a painter." [pp 247-249]